Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt

Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Those seemingly delightful lyrics are from the song “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and sung by him and LL Cool J. The song often refers to how white people from the south and black people from the north maybe just can’t understand each other, and maybe they’re being a little too sensitive about things, and maybe they should just have a beer together. It’s a really dreadful song and you probably shouldn’t listen to it.

A couple weekends ago, a white 20-year-old wearing patches representing pro-apartheid African nations, and who has been pictured waving a Confederate battle flag and burning a United States flag, and who — according to his roommate — had often spoke of killing some black people and starting a new civil war, went into an historic black civil war-era church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat around for a while while the pastor led his congregation in prayer, and then pulled out a gun and opened fire. The death toll, before he fled the scene only to be captured in North Carolina the next day, was nine.

Based solely on the evidence I listed above (confederate flag, anti-apartheid, yearning for another civil war, historic black place of worship) a lot of people labeled this pretty much immediately as a hate crime. Others claim it’s an act of terrorism, and I tend to agree with both. His intent was very clearly racially motivated, and going by the FBI’s official definition I think it’s clear to say this was an act of terrorism as well. The oddest thing, however, is when you switch your television station over to Fox News, you’ll hear they have taken a different approach to the situation. Obviously this wasn’t a racist hate crime, but an attack on Christianity! Because in Foxnewsland, the spin they put on any story has to make it seem like they, the Christian Right, are the ones being attacked. So far as I can tell, no indication of Roof’s religion has been made.

Anyway, this whole shooting debacle led very briefly to a discussion on gun laws and a lot of old internet memes popped back up for about three days, but that was all swept aside to make room for this week’s new topic of debate, and the real culprit here: racism.

And you know, I sort of agree. I’m no fan of guns. We need stricter gun regulations. We need to make it more difficult for all people to obtain guns. But it’s also important to determine motive and then see if there are ways to quell motivation — in this case, racism — that may lead to heinous acts like shootings that kill nine people. So our first course of action has been, for the first time in 150 years, to villainize the confederate battle flag (CBF). The day after Roof’s killing spree, the CBF was still flying on South Carolina capitol grounds. It still exists as part of the design on several state flags, as well. So obviously we have to have that flag removed.

But why a flag? It’s just a flag! It’s more than a flag, people. It’s a symbol. A symbol flown by supporters of a war 150 years old that was lost to the Union. A symbol of traitorous southerners who thought it was their god-given right to keep slaves. Yeah, technically people have the freedom to fly their CBFs or their Nazi Germany swastikas, but does that mean they necessarily ought to? Furthermore, does it mean they reserve the right to do so free of consequence? Freedom of speech and expression does not grant you immunity to criticism. As a person with German ancestry, I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to fly a swastika to honor my ancestors.

“Southern pride” rednecks can hang the flag from their trailers and lean-tos and claim their ancestors who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve respect, but I refuse to mourn for or respect separatists who, had they had their way, would have maintained their right to oppress a race of people and buy/sell them and force them into servitude.

Hell, the presence of the CBF or its likeness in the form of stickers on the bumpers of Ford trucks as old and rusty as their owners or patches on overalls serves to warn me in advance who the racists are who can’t let go of the past and their ancestors’ failings in the name of heritage, or some other hokey backwoods jargon that secretly stands for “Hey, we tried to [3/5ths] compromise!”

But that flag has no place whatsoever on public or government property. When it exists next to a United States flag, or a state flag, or especially AS a state flag, it gives the Dylann Roofs of the world a symbol to fight or kill for. It perpetuates — and even worse, institutionalizes — racism.

As of this writing, several states have removed the CBFs from their capitol grounds. Several retailers — even huge retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and eBay — have stopped selling CBF merchandise. I don’t think that was a necessary step, but I support their right to sell or not sell what they please. Even video game publishers of historic games are talking about stopping sales of games featuring a CBF. It is absolutely huge that this is in national discussion right now. There are the people who think the flag belongs in a museum, since it certainly has a history within the United States, and then there are the people who refuse to take it down because their “southern pride” is more important to them than supporting their fellow Americans. When all is said and done, the racists will stick out like sore thumbs and we’ll all be better off knowing who to stay away from.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO TODAY’S BIG NEWS

I awoke this morning and turned on the news, like I do, and I picked up my Android phone and started scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed during my slumber. As it turns out, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a vote of 5-4, overturned states’ rights to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This is an extraordinary time to be alive right now, knowing that not only is history being made, but that I’m on the right side of it and have been since I was old enough to understand that boys are allowed to love boys too.

The second thing I did this morning, after I had scrolled a bit through Facebook, was to start perusing the comments sections under the posts made by local news organizations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to know the state of things in our country, don’t watch TV, don’t read a newspaper; all you have to do is read the comments sections under local news articles. Because this is your home; these are the people who surround you. Many of them are kind-hearted, reasonable people whose love for life extends to their friends and neighbors and doesn’t just stop outside their own personal egobubble.

But then there are the rabid, hateful, obscene people who want everyone to know how much love they have for family values and Jesus and oh god won’t somebody think of the children! It is to those people whom I address in the remainder of today’s post. Those Christians who assume this progressive country abides by the laws in their millennia-old book.

Your silly book of fairy tales with its laws against shaving your beard and laws against women taking on roles as educators and laws proclaiming bats are birds and stories about talking donkeys and people being turned into pillars of salt and daughters raping their drunken father and god destroying everything a man loves and lives for all because of a silly bet…

That’s not the book from which our normal-people laws are derived. Hell isn’t real, heaven isn’t real, talking serpents and donkeys aren’t real, dragons and unicorns and behemoths and leviathans aren’t real… so do kindly shut the fuck up and refrain from passing judgment on anybody – ANYBODY – seeking happiness and inclusiveness and equality. Because if what they’re doing shakes the very foundation of your fundamental beliefs, then it’s your fundamentals which need to be checked, NOT theirs.

If I learned anything from the Bible, and I have read it cover to cover, it’s that lesson from very early on in the book about the big important guy getting all in a kerfuffle because his two subservient playthings decided to seek knowledge: the ultimate gift.

Too bad satan’s not real, otherwise I’d praise him for setting us free from the Christian god’s shackles.

Equality wins, boys and girls, friends and family. And of you still huffing and puffing about hell or about how icky it is that some people actually had to fight and live through the ridicule and the pain and the insults just to hear their country say “okay, you’re allowed to love each other now,” you huffers and puffers are a dying breed.

This is an incredible time to be alive in the United States. I’m watching history being made. I’m watching my friends finally be recognized as actual people. I get to see my friends rejoice in who they are and know that finally, America is on their side.

If there was a god, I wouldn’t offer cries of “god bless” or “god is great” or any sort of fealty. Not after seeing how his/her/its followers and so-called disciples spit venom and hatred and condemnation toward anybody a little bit different than themselves. Anybody with a different skin color, or anybody with a different sexual preference or identity. No, god deserves no love, no praise, no thanks. It’s the fast-growing majority of progressive, forward-thinking Americans who are to thank for helping bring this country that much closer to universal equality.

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A Moment of Humor.

I happened upon the videos of a youtube user called nicepeter. I found this one to be particularly good.  He does the Epic Rap Battles of History, in which two famous figures duke it out. This one is Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking.

The Bible in my own words (Numbers 31:1-54)

Image courtesy of The Brick Testament

God told Moses to go to battle with the Midianites to avenge the Israelites.

So Moses told his people to get ready to bring about God’s vengeance. “Twelve thousand men should do it,” he said. So twelve thousand men from all the tribes of Israel armed themselves and went into battle, along with a priest named Eleazar, who also brought some things.

In what could be counted as one of the most one-sided battles in all of history – even moreso than the battle of the Alamo – the Israelites killed every single Midianite man, including all five of their kings. Then they captured all the women and children and took all the Midianites’ livestock and goods. They then burned down every one of the Midianite towns before heading home where they presented Moses and Eleazar with all the stuff they took.

Moses was pissed, though.

He couldn’t believe the Israelite commanders had been graceful enough to allow all the women and children to survive the battle. “Kill them,” Moses said. “Kill them for God.” Because it was the women’s fault in the first place that all this had to go down. “But keep the virgins,” Moses said with a wink. So all of the women who had had sex were slaughtered, and so were all of the young boys.

“Also, if you killed anybody during that battle,” Moses continued, “you have to sleep outside for a week.” This included pretty much everybody, so one can conclude Moses really just wanted some alone time with Eleazar. “Take all your swag with you, including your captives. Bathe on the third and seventh days and clean all your junk. Especially the stuff made of leather, goat hair, and wood. Especially that stuff.”

“While you’re out there,” Eleazar told them, “take every single thing which can withstand fire and pass it through a fire, in order to sterilize it. Then rinse it off with water. If anything can’t withstand fire, it still has to be rinsed with water.” The soldiers would then wash their clothes on the seventh day and THEN they would finally be clean enough to come near Moses.

But God wasn’t done yet. Moses and Eleazar and the soldiers, they got to go into battle and have tons of fun. God wanted in on that, so he demanded Moses divide all the soldiers’ plunder so he could have some for himself. “Cut everything in half,” God said. “Half goes to the soldiers and the other half goes to the rest of the Israelites.” Moses nodded. “But wait,” God said, “There’s more. Out of the soldiers’ half, I want one out of every five hundred things. Out of the Israelites’ half, take one out of every fifty things and give it to the Levites since they’re still hanging on to my stuff for me.”

Moses counted everything up, did some math, and got to work.

The soldiers’ half amounted to 337,500 sheep, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 virgin girls.

This meant that Eleazar had 675 sheep, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys, and 32 virgin girls taken aside and sacrificed to keep God happy.

The Israelites’ half was, well, equal to the soldiers’ half. But one out of every fifty sheep, cattle, donkeys and virgin girls were sent to the Levites who, again, were hanging onto God’s stuff.

After everything was meted out, the army commanders went to Moses and said “Hey, we just crunched some numbers, had a roll call, and it turns out not a single one of us died during that battle.”

“Holy shit!” Moses exclaimed, “This is cause for a party!”

So the commanders took every last bit of gold they’d looted from the Midianites and gave it to Moses and Eleazar. They showed the swag to God, who pulled out a set of scales and weighed all the gold. “16,750 shekels!” God announced. And much partying was done.