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Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

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Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

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I had an interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with an older black woman.  I found it so because of the light it shines into one reason why so many blacks distrust the police and our justice system.

This woman is, as I said an older black woman.  She has grandchildren, one of whom is 27.  She was married to a man in the Air Force and did quite a bit a traveling until he died unexpectedly in the 90s.  She has a degree in Social Service and Political Science.

During the course of our conversation she related this story about her father.  Or more accurately, her father’s murder.  It happened when she was 13.  And it happened here in Texas.   And it happened in a sundown city.

For those too young or who may have never come across this adjective before, a sundown city was a city or town that had posted a sign stating some version of the following:

“Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In [Insert name of city here]”.

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There were over 10,000 of these cities across the US up until the late 60s.  The city where I currently reside was one such, and, at least until the late 90s, was still a prime area for the KKK.  Today I still see a large number of confederate flags around.  These cities though were not limited to the south but extended to Glendale, California and up to Levittown, NY.  Indeed, most of the towns in Illinois were Sundown cities.

In fact, there were so many of these cities, and so many areas where the Jim Crow laws were strongly enforced, and so many areas where police were more threat than protection for blacks, so many areas where blacks just disappeared, that a book called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was published annually from 1936 through 1966 by a New York travel agent named Victor H. Green.

This handy book was for blacks traveling in the United States.   This book warned the black traveler of the worse areas (at least the known ones) and about the specific dangers of that area.  It also provided the names of hotels and restaurants that would not serve blacks, and of car repair shops that would not fix their vehicles.

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine this; the country into which you were born, the country of which you are a citizen, the country in which you live and work and raise a family, this country that is supposedly yours too being so dangerous for you that you need a guidebook to help navigate its perils in as much safety as possible.  A guide for traveling in a dangerous country.  One not needed for its white citizens.

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And all of this going on until the mid 1960s.

Just stop and think of that too.  The mid 1960s is not ancient history.  It is not something from our founding.  It is recent history, a history of which millions of Americans (including myself) have personal memory of.

As does this black woman I met.

Which now brings us to what happened to her father in the not so distant past, a past that is recent in fact, recent in both years and memory.  What happened to her father when she was 13?

Or to ask another way, what happened to blacks who were caught in those sundown towns after dark?  If they were lucky they were picked up and arrested by the police, then either escorted out or jailed, and possibly roughed up.  If they were unlucky, then much worse happened; as happened to this woman’s father.

He was found the next morning strung up by his ankles from a tree.  He had been gutted and his intestines soaked the ground under him.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles had been cut off.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles were not near him as his intestines were.  They were missing entirely.  The sheriff told this woman’s mother that they were probably fed to the pigs.

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This happened within living memory.

Yes, we have changed laws and processes to reduce and de-institutionalize these more overt forms of racism and bias.  But, do those who would deny that racism plays any significant role today in hiring, in education, in justice, in law enforcement, in society; do those who would argue that there is no real racism in our institutions other than what is being played up and stoked up by trouble makers and liberals out to make political hay; do those people really believe that such deeply embedded institutions, deeply held beliefs, deeply held hatreds, do they really believe that these can be changed as quickly and as easily as a law?

Really?

Laws change more easily and more quickly than attitudes.  Laws change more easily than institutions.

The 1960s were the start of significant and needed changes in regards to race in our country.  But a start is not the finish.  To pretend that it is, to deny this basic fact is then to work to undo that start and push us back to that a different version of that recent past.

The vast majority of blacks realize that the changes needed to enact true and equal justice for all regardless of color is still only in its beginnings.  They have the stories of their still living mothers and fathers, the stories of their still living grandmothers and grandfathers, the stories of their still living uncles and aunts and cousins to tell them so. Stories of loss, of denial, of pain and suffering, of injustice backed by government and institutions, stories of death.

Stories that are reinforced and proven true in their daily lives today.  And by the fact that

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so many whites deny them the lessons of both their personal history and their own current experiences.

They have good reason to be distrustful of police, of the justice system, and of our government overall.   It has been changed, but not totally reformed.  And they remember.  As should we all.

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Today in Dallas, as I write these words, at least five law enforcement officers are dead and another six are wounded.  They were targeted and murdered by what, as of this writing, appear to be black men.

This occurred at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter march protesting the needless deaths of Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul Minnesota. Two black men killed by white police officers, both seemingly victims of racial bias, whether open or unconscious.

This juxtaposition of Black Lives and of Blue Lives seems to me representative of the action  – reaction cycle that we see over and over again.

The Action

A police officer kills an unarmed or restrained black person.   An act that occurs more often to blacks than to whites.  This, along with the racial inequalities in our justice system overall, our economic inequalities, and our educational inequalities combine to justly anger the black community who then take action.  The vast majority of those actions are peaceful – demonstrations, petitions, speeches and letters, getting out the vote, and creating organizations to keep this issue before the public eye and create the needed pressure for actions to be taken to change the system.

A few individuals though take it further.  In Dallas, they killed law enforcement officers.

Let me be clear here.  This racial inequality and bias embedded in our law enforcement and legal system does not excuse their behavior.  These men are murderers and should be caught and held fully responsible for their actions.

This bias and inequality doesn’t even fully explain their actions since the vast majority of those protesting who have suffered the same bias and prejudice do not kill, do not loot, do not destroy.  But this inequality is still one of the root causes of their actions and must be addressed if we are ever to free ourselves of such crimes.

Reaction

The bias and bigotry that sits unnoticed in too many people’s minds becomes confirmed and strengthened.  Blacks are violent.  Instead of seeing the person, they see a skin color and fear and distrust it. Blacks are violent.

People walk with wary eye upon seeing blacks.  People cross the street to avoid the threat.  Police see a threat based solely on the color of a person’s skin and so react in lethal ways when lethality is not called for.  Jurors at the trial see the black skin and agree that the officer was justified in his fear.

Less lethally but more common, police go hard line when hard line is not called for, they stop persons when such stops are not called for, they follow persons when following is not called for.

A black person is unfairly treated and the resentment, the anger, the frustration grows. And with this, the cycle completes and continues.

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I opened this piece by mentioning the peaceful protest by demonstrators in Dallas.  What I would like to mention as a possibility of hope is that these protests were so peaceful that the police were posing with the protestors for pictures.   To me, these photos provide hope that we can together work out these problems, these grave problems, to create a better society.

We have come a long way since the days of the Civil Rights marches and the Civil Rights Acts they inspired.  Progress has been made.  But the easy progress is over.  Now comes the more difficult work of ridding our law enforcement and justice system, our economic and educational system, our society of the biases and prejudices that are hidden, that are unconscious.  So hidden that too many deny they even exist.

But hidden or denied, they exist and have real effects.  Effects that result in the tragedies of Anton Sterling and his family and friends, of Philando Castile and his family and friends, and of all those officers killed on the streets tonight whose names I would list if they had been released now and their families and friends.

While many things need to change to break this cycle of pain and suffering, of injustice and death, admitting the existence of these biases and then working together to rid our society of them is one of the more important and basic of those needed changes.  Without seeing the log in our own eyes justice and peace can never be fully attained.

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Recently we had a confederate flag flap when our annual stock show parade banned the battle flag of the Confederacy (but still allowed the original national Confederate flag).

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Around the same time a letter was printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram from a Ms. Barbara Kirkland strongly defending the flying of the Confederate flag. Part of that letter helped bring further into focus the reasons why I do not defend this flag nor its flying by any government agency.

In her letter she states that her ancestors “fought for the Confederacy” and “I’m proud that when the call came to stand and defend the South they heeded the call”.

Their “call” was to defend a rebellion against their own country – the United States of America. Now, rebellion is, at times, justified if the cause is good and just. But, in this case the cause was the exact opposite of good and just. Many issues were involved in causing the Southern States to try to dissolve the union, but the chief and foremost of them was the issue of slavery. The treatment of other people as nothing more than property, with no more rights than a cow or horse. This was the root cause of why the Southern states rebelled and tried to break up the union.

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Yes, most confederate soldiers did not own slaves. Yet they supported the government who broke away from the union that protected their “right” to own a person if they wished or were economically able.

Just like we don’t honor the Nazi heritage of Germany just because most Germans were not Nazi’s and not involved in killing the Jews, so too should we not be honoring this part of Southern heritage by flying any confederate flag. It is a part of our heritage that should be condemned.

This letter writer, and those who think like her, have the right to fly that flag if they so wish. However, no government entity whatsoever, at any level, whether city, county, state or national, should be flying any version of the Confederate flag. And I will protest any that do.

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Despite what they may believe, the heritage they are “celebrating” and the cause for which this flag stood for were traitorous and, worse, condoned barbarous actions against the dignity and worth of humanity. This flag is worth honoring just as much as the Nazi flag – not at all.

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I started to think about this blog upon hearing of the shooting death of Deputy Darren H. Goforth while he was refueling his patrol car.

Let me first unequivocally condemn the shooting and killing of any law enforcement officer. All such killings are not only a tragedy to those family and friends who know them but also harm the necessary trust that must exist between the public and the police in order for law enforcement to work most effectively.

I am often accused of treating police killings lightly and of always taking the side of the violent blacks when a white policeman shoots an unarmed black person, or when the black community starts to protest or riot. The reason for this is that I usually try to understand the reasons why the shootings and violence occurred. This is too often taken as excusing and somehow justifying the violent behavior. It is not. It is, instead, an attempt to find the root cause of the unrest of much of the black community and the distrust that exists between the black community and our justice system, including the police. To me, this sort of understanding is a necessity if we are ever to move on to a more equal society, one that does not have the unrest that ours does now.

Since I will be doing that here again I thought it necessary to be as explicit as possible about my views. Past experience though indicates that such distinctions will be overlooked again in order to keep with a simple narrative that promotes and protects biases and views. But still……

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Among the conservatives and some other groups there is a belief that there is an epidemic of cops being hunted and killed due to the publicity police killings of unarmed blacks and the resulting increased tensions between the black community and police. Groups such as Black Lives Matter and others are being blamed for creating the atmosphere that fosters these incidents. Some even blame President Obama for this. However, is this perception true? And is this perception really the root cause of the problem?

My answer is no.

First, there is no epidemic of police killings. According to the FBI database, felonious killings of law enforcement officers for 2015 is well within the normal number of such killings. Going back and looking at the number of police killings for each year since 2005 we find:

2005 – 55 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2006 – 48 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2007 – 57 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2008 – 41 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2009 – 48 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2010 – 56 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2011 – 72 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2012 – 49 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2013 – 27 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.
2014 – 51 felonious killings of law enforcement officers.

So far this year, 2015, including Deputy Goforth and Illinois police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, the number of law enforcement officers shot and killed stands at 24. This CNN report provides some details on each of these murders of law enforcement officers this year.

Looking at this, first note there is no above average increase in the number of what the FBI call felonious deaths of law enforcement officers. In fact, going at the current rate the number of law enforcement felonious deaths will be less than last years.

I also note that the numbers stay, overall, remarkably consistent, hovering around the 50s each year with one high year of 72 deaths in 2011 and a low year of 27 deaths in 2013.

In reading a bit about how the officers died this year from the CNN article I again do not see any evidence of a mass killing of police officers brought on by people hunting down police officers.

In short the data do not support the idea of an increase in police deaths due to tensions between the black community and the police. There is none.

What has happened though is that these highly publicized (and rightly so) tensions have provided a framework for people to quickly fit some of the police murders into in order to quickly and easily explain them. There have been a couple of incidents where the killer used these tensions as a reason for shooting a police officer, and it might be true in those instances. However, they still might have gone out to kill a police officer even without these tension and used another excuse for doing so instead. What is certain though is that there is no effort to go out and kill police officers, or at least nothing that has shown up as an increase in the number of law enforcement officers killed.

But if this simplistic narrative does not hold up then what is happening? Actually, many things. There is not just one cause behind all of this, there rarely is for any social issue. But let me focus right now on the one getting a great deal of attention, the black community and police. Which I will do in my next blog.

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An unnamed medical legal examiner who responded to the shooting testified before the grand jury that he or she had not taken any distance measurements at the scene, because they appeared
“self-explanatory.”

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Now that the Grand Jury has decided to no bill Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, to too many people, especially to too many white people, what happened in Ferguson on August 9, 2014 is “self explanatory”.
In the words of Elizabeth Powell’s letter to the editor in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

“I would dare say that after 70 hours of listening to witnesses and evidence and 25 days of courtroom time that the Ferguson grand jury came to a just and fair decision.

It obviously wasn’t made flippantly.

As law-abiding, responsible, intelligent people, they came to their decision not to indict. They made that decision based on facts and science, not emotion or hypotheticals.

If all the facts and evidence result in that decision, then the public needs to accept it.

If the public doesn’t, then they are merely saying that they don’t care about truth and facts, they just want a decision based off of what they feel and want. This is tantamount to lawlessness.

We live in a society today that largely rejects any form of restraint and personal responsibility. These two ingredients make up complete lawlessness.

Truth must always be upheld, no matter what the cost.”

What the grand jury decided is the truth… “self explanatory”. No debate, no questions, no doubts. And her voice is far, far from the only one saying this.

As noted in my quote above, the Ferguson police did not feel that distances between Michael Brown’s dead body and the police car needed to be measured because what had happened was “self explanatory’. Fortunately some other law enforcement agencies felt that it was necessary and, perhaps, not so self explanatory.

The first police officer to interview Wilson about the shooting did not record that conversation, did not take notes about the conversation, and did not write up his memories about the conversation until much later. As he stated later when asked about this breach of protocol in police procedure – “I didn’t take notes because at that point in time I had multiple things going through my head besides what Darren was telling me.”

Even worse, Wilson had called this officer personally after they had both been interviewed by investigators and went over his account of the tragedy again. The officer stated that there were no discrepancies between Wilson’s first account and the one given over the phone. But, if his mind was so filled with items other than Wilson’s testimony during the first interview, so much so that he could not take the time to take notes on it, then how could he be sure that they were the same? A distracted mind and all you know. Or, perhaps, one now guided by the questions posed to both of them by the investigator who interviewed them.

broken-gavelBut then, what happened was “self explanatory.

Officers did not test Wilson’s gun for fingerprints. That is normal police procedure that was among many normal police procedures – such as measuring distances and recording interviews for example – that were not followed. Had Brown’s fingerprints been found then that would have provided more support for Wilson’s story. Had Brown’s fingerprints not been found on gun though…well, questions would have been raised. Now we will never know.

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

Other violations of normal police procedures in shootings include:

– The initial interview being delayed while Wilson was sent to the hospital, in a car with a lieutenant colonel of the Ferguson police force and another Ferguson police officer. While initial interviews are sometimes delayed for medical reasons Wilson did not appear to need medical attention and later testified that he did not.

– Wilson not turning over his gun to a supervisor or someone designated by the supervisor but, instead, bagging it himself.

– Washing away the blood on him before samples could be taken.

– Not photographing the crime scene (fortunately another law enforcement agency was).

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

During the grand jury process more self explanatory happened.

In a highly unusual move, instead of arguing for one or more charges prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch made no argument for any charge. Instead of finding the best evidence for any of the possible charges he made no argument and overwhelmed the jury with all of the evidence, burying them alive in information.

Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor who spent six years trying violent crimes, including homicides, told Vox’s Amanda Taub in August that the strategy raised concerns about McCulloch’s commitment to seeking justice in the case:

So when a District Attorney says, in effect, “we’ll present the evidence and let the grand jury decide,” that’s malarkey. If he takes that approach, then he’s already decided to abdicate his role in the process as an advocate for justice. At that point, there’s no longer a prosecutor in the room guiding the grand jurors, and — more importantly — no state official acting on behalf of the victim, Michael Brown…

Then, when you add to the mix that minorities are notoriously underrepresented on grand juries, you have the potential for nullification — of a grand jury declining to bring charges even when there is sufficient probable cause. That’s the real danger to this approach.

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

In another highly unusual move prosecuting attorney McCulloch had Officer Wilson testify. And did not cross examine him, letting his testimony stand as is. To have the accused testify before a grand jury is unusual enough in and of itself. To let him testify without cross examination or criticism amounts to letting the accused present his side and only his side to the grand jury – especially since prosecuting attorney McCulloch refused to fulfill his prosecutorial role at all, instead preferring to play the role of a passive defense attorney.

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

There were conflicts between Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury and his initial interviews. In the initial interviews he did not know that Brown was holding stolen cigarillos in his hand, noting only that Brown had handed something off to his friend before punching him. In fact, Wilson denied knowing that Brown was a suspect at all in the convenience store robbery. However, in his later testimony that changed and Wilson stated that he did suspect Brown was the suspect in this robbery and he did know that Brown was holding cigarillos.

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

Wilson claimed that he feared for his life in his fight with Brown. Yet his injuries consisted of only a slight bruise…not much for a life and death struggle.

But then, what happened was “self explanatory”.

More, much much more could be listed here. But by now it should be “self explanatory” what happened in Ferguson. At least for those who look at the evidence and the facts, the conflicting testimony and the gross negligence on the part of both the Ferguson police and prosecuting attorney.

It is obviously self explanatory that due to racial bias and prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, and to the knee jerk reaction of the thin blue line to protect one of their own that a gross miscarriage of justice has occurred.

I do not know for sure what happened that day between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. However, I do know that there is now a dead youth whose death will never be explained due to the fact that those in charge of the system decided to short circuit it and avoid a trial that would have examined in detail all of the conflicting testimony and evidence, argued it out in public and come to a conclusion about what really happened.

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Now we are left with suspicions and pain and suffering and the justified feeling on the part of the black community that once again they are denied even a chance at justice.

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Given that I occasionally listen to conservative talk radio and Christian talk radio shows when I am driving, I usually have a high tolerance for idiocy (just for the record, most of the time I listen to music, either radio or CD’s).   I find them informative (usually not in the way the talk hosts wish), amusing, and often the source of a blog or two.   Occasionally though they do manage to get me angry.   Tuesday was one occasion.

The Wells Report, an AM conservative talk show (660AM, the Answer – a proud example of a misnomer), was the show.   The subject was atheist chaplains.   While there were many offensive remarks made by Wells and his listeners, the one that pierced even my toughened skin was Mr. Well’s argument that atheists do not need chaplains because they do not suffer from the same issues theists do.

For example, according to Mr. Wells, atheists do not suffer survivor’s guilt when their friends and buddies die.  After all, since atheists believe everyone is just a bag of meat then it really doesn’t matter if someone dies or not.  It is all just a matter of chance, so too bad about good old Joe and let’s move out.

Because of that I did something I have never done before; I sent an e-mail to the show letting them know my displeasure.   So far there has been no response to my e mail, but it has been only two days.   Still, I don’t expect there to be one.

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Anyway, here was my e mail to him.

“While driving I was flipping through stations looking for something to listen to.   Your show caught my attention.   I only heard a small part of it and, unfortunately, I could not listen to all of it, or even the parts I did hear consecutively since I was stopping at different places.   But during the parts I listened to you were discussing atheist chaplains.  At one time you had a caller saying that atheist chaplains should come from dog catchers – after they catch a problem, give the person three days and then put them down.   Later, and this is what I wish to discuss, you asked what would an atheist chaplain do?  You illustrated the point of your question by making the argument that atheists do not suffer from survivor’s guilt.  

I won’t go over your argument since I imagine you remember it.   However, let me point out its fallacy by making a similar argument for Christians.   Why should they suffer survivor’s guilt?   After all, the person is not really dead, there is a life after death.   In fact, your dead friend and comrade have now gone to a better place than you are in now (assuming they are Christian).   Seems you should be celebrating their escape from the hell of war and suffering instead of feeling guilty.  Envious perhaps, but not guilty.  Further, you friend is not gone forever.  You and he will be reunited and continue your friendship in the hereafter.   And if your friend is not a Christian, well, God’s will is supreme.   Who are you to question his will in allowing your comrade to die.  Pray for his soul and move on. 

I imagine you see, and more important feel, the ridiculousness of this argument.   Yet you make a very similar argument for atheists on this topic.  

The reason for why both atheists and Christians suffer survivor’s guilt is because both are human.   Being human means that you make connections to people – you make friends, establish emotional ties, feel another’s joys and pains.   It is the being human that creates the survivor’s guilt.  Doesn’t matter whether you are Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Muslims, Wiccan, etc.  What matters is, you are human.

Your comments and jokes, the comments from your listeners that I heard, all seem to make the assumption that an atheist is not human; that they do not make attachments, love others, feel other’s pain.   Because your own beliefs are so strongly based on your beliefs does not mean that those who do not believe the same as you do are non-human, non-feeling monsters who would feel nothing when a friend dies in combat, who would put down people with problems if they could not be solved within three days,  etc. 

You might not understand our reasoning (from what I heard, I do not think you have even seriously tried to), but the end results are the same for both the Atheist and the Christian.  We feel, and we create and value attachments to others.   And we hurt and suffer when they are torn apart and we are separated.  

 If it helps you understand a bit, think of it this way.  The Bible says that the law, that morality, is written on men’s hearts.  I and most atheists agree.  Where we disagree with the theist is on who or what did the writing.  We can argue as much as we like on that.  But what we should not be arguing about is the result, because the result, a human heart, is the same.   

Let me ask, how insulted and angry would you feel, were an atheist to make the argument I did for why Christians do not suffer from survivor’s guilt?   A shallow, unfeeling, unthinking, facile argument based more on bias and ignorance than true knowledge.  Sophistry employed to mock and make fun of, to dehumanize.  

Atheists do spout off ignorant and hateful arguments.  And often other atheists, including myself, call them on it.  Your ignorance and total insensitivity to the fact that atheists are humans is an example of why so many atheists spout off the way they do.  Your words and actions here help perpetuate the image of the ignorant and hate filled Christians that too many atheists believe.   People such as yourself make it damned difficult for atheists such as myself and others to keep balance and perspective in our disagreements. 

Congratulations on promoting religious ignorance and bigotry.”

 

One general observation to make here.   First, I have heard theistic commentators trying to figure out atheists.   Actually, let me rephrase that.  I have heard shallow theistic commentators trying to figure us out – why do we form associations, why do we care about justice, why do we …..whatever.    It is as if since we are atheists we must be a different manner of human from them, one that does not share the same fears, joys, concerns, empathy, and so forth as theists do.

The Wells Report though carried this to an extreme.  By contrast let me mention that a couple of years ago I did call in to a conservative talk show (sorry, can’t remember which one right now) on why atheists feel the need to form groups and associations.  My comments were actually aired and the host treated me fairly.   The callers on this were also, by and large, a more fair minded if sometimes surprisingly ignorant bunch.   Although somewhat ignorant on this,  the host on this show did seem to be at least trying to understand.

The Wells Report does not, at least so far.   Instead of understanding it seemingly would rather promote hatred.

 

 

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