After work Thursday I stopped at the Salvation Army. I was dropping off some items I no longer needed. I then went inside to do some shopping. As a member of the working poor I often shop at such thrift stores. While inside I saw a stout woman in her thirties with two girls that were about 8 and 10 years old. The eight year old walked towards her mother holding up a pink t-shirt. The mother said, “Look at the letter o in the word love printed on it.” The letters were different objects with the o being a peace symbol. The woman said, “You know you’re not allowed to wear anything with a peace symbol on it.” I was puzzled by this comment and had to ask what the heck gives. I said, “What is wrong with a peace symbol?” She replied, “It is evil anti-Christian and the symbol for the New World Order.” I replied, “It represents peace and originally meant ban the bomb. It has been hijacked by a few organizations to try to mean something else but it boils down to symbolize people who want a peaceful world. Wasn’t Jesus all about peace?” She replied, “We all have our own beliefs and I am sorry if I offend yours. That is all I have to say.” I did not reply I just finished shopping and left. On the drive home I noted that I went in the Salvation Army at about 2:50 pm. That made me wonder why these two school age girls were not in school. I then realized I had probably just encountered a homeschool mom. Perhaps they were shopping as a substitute for math class.
I have been running into quite a few of these homeschool moms and former homeschool moms. Many of these women have told me they were homeschool moms as their minister told them the Devil was in the public schools. We have a couple of churches in the valley that promote this idea. The irony is these former homeschool moms are looking for jobs since their kids are now grown. Many of them are getting jobs in the public schools as assistants, janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria workers. They don’t get the hypocrisy of now working where the supposed Devil lives. I wonder if their ministers have spoken against them working in the public schools. He is probably happy they are getting a paycheck and donating to the church. I have met a few women working in public education that are still homeschooling. I guess the homeschool kid is learning on the afternoon shift. I really don’t understand these Christian fundamentalist who only see the bad in public education and symbols and don’t care to look for all the good. I also don’t understand how they can’t see their own hypocrisy.
In the newspaper was an interesting story on Friday. It was about the Pine Bush, New York High School. For National Foreign Language Week, the school’s foreign language department came up with an idea. Every day that week the Pledge of Allegiance would be read in a different language. The intent was to promote the fact that Americans who speak a language other than English pledge to this great country. The idea was a hit until an Arabic speaking student read the pledge in Arabic. Catcalls from many students started immediately. Students went home and complained to parents. Then parents called the school saying they had lost family members in the Afghanistan war. When these veterans were killed, weren’t they fighting to free Afghanistan citizens from the Taliban and their fundamentalist view of Islam? Sadly, the school apologized to students, staff and community members who took offense to the pledge being recited in Arabic.
In 2013, the parents of several Jewish students attending Pine Bush schools said their children were the targets of anti-Semitic harassment from classmates. I note that Jewish parents called the school complaining about the pledge being read in Arabic. They had no concerns that Arab students were now facing harassment in school. I guess they didn’t notice their own hypocrisy. I agree with what Sadyia Khalique spokesman for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had to say. He said, “When a simple student activity designed to promote mutual understanding receives such a negative reaction and the school in which it takes place is forced to apologize, all Americans who value our nation’s history of religious and ethnic diversity should be concerned.”
This week I heard some interesting programming on WYSU our local NPR radio station. They were doing a feature on the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama civil rights march. I heard a Japanese-American (who along with his family was interned during WW II) and a Jewish rabbi interviewed. They had gone back to attend the march they had been in 50 years ago. They talked about how the African-Americans in the first march influenced them with their courage. They were proud to have been such a part of history that helped change this country.
After the things I read and experienced this week I wondered if there had been much change. This week in Austin, Texas someone pasted “Exclusively for white people” stickers on storefront windows. The stickers called for no more than 5 black customers to be in a store at a time. It is being investigated to find out who did this. Sadly, this happened in Austin which is the most progressive city in Texas. This month a video came forward about the University of Oklahoma’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. They were happily seen chanting racist remarks about African-Americans. The same evening that University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon came under fire for a racially charged viral video, a Confederate flag was visible hanging in a window of Oklahoma State University’s SAE house. The SAE fraternity at Oklahoma and in other states have a history of racism. I’d point out that racism at these universities could be your real “Devil in the schools.” That racism could filter into society in a big way once these students graduate. I say that because of a study published last year in The Atlantic. That study showed that, “Fraternity men make up 85 percent of U.S. Supreme Court justices since 1910, 63 percent of all U.S. presidential cabinet members since 1900 and, historically, 76 percent of U.S. senators [and] 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives.”
Topeka Kansas resident, Rev. Fred Phelps died recently. He was the anti-gay minister who along with his followers disrupted burials of veterans who had died in the wars in the Middle East. They held up signs saying, “God hates fags” near the funerals. Phelps stated he believed veterans were dying in wars because so many in the U.S. support gay rights. Rev. Phelps has also used anti-Semitic language in the fliers and tracts he distributed at his church. I find all of this very strange given Fred Phelps background. He was a highly intelligent civil rights attorney who in the 1960s would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would. He passionately fought for the rights of blacks, and then turned his passion to hate condemning gays until he died in March of 2014.
It was Civil Rights leader, Bayard Rustin a gay man who introduced Martin Luther King to Gandhi’s teachings about peaceful protest. I’m sure many other gay men and women of all colors and faiths (and secular people) helped African-Americans in the Civil Rights struggle. Yet today, most black Christian churches lash out against gays fighting for their rights. I am left wondering if we have really come very far at all in the last fifty years. I also have to wonder if religion and some of its hypocrisy has helped or hindered our journey to that better world for our children.
Oklahoma vies for most racist state.
The Roots: “Can’t Turn Me Around”
“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ~ MLK