Friday, October 26, 2012

Cross-Bearing Sand Kickers

[Taking a day off from Roctober for a more urgent matter.]

A woman named Elizabeth T. Wood sent a message to our school’s Facebook page. She wrote to warn that our school was engaged in “promoting a pro-homosexual agenda" by hosting a "Mix It Up Day" on our campus.

Not only was our Facebook page contacted, but emails were sent to at least five school administrators, and one phone message was left, all warning us of our participation in Mix It Up Day.

We were not the only school receiving this message.

Mix It Up at Lunch is an annual event encouraged by Teaching Tolerance, an educational offshoot of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Not to brag, but I'm quite skilled at the art of Googling, but it took a while to find what the hell Ms. Wood was talking about. Eventually, I located our name on the embedded map of a third-level page. Very non-search-friendly.

For the record, and to the best of our knowledge, no one from our school registered us as a participant in this program. We've had a couple of teachers use information from Teaching Tolerance for lessons in past years, and our best guess was that registering for these kits might have put us in the mix.

To repeat: Our school had no "Mix It Up at Lunch" event planned.

Nothing is as annoying as having to defend yourself against an accusation that is simultaneously untrue and pointless. With a single day's barrage of contacts from a single fringe group, our school found itself drawn into a polarized controversy by doing absolutely nothing!

Were any sane person to read the Teaching Tolerance page about Mix It Up Lunches, they would never close their browser window believing the goal of the event was to infect teen- and pre-teen brains with some "vicious homosexual agenda." The event was merely intended to encourage (or require?) students to sit at another table, with classmates they don't know very well. Best I could tell, this worked best if the students at any table represented a healthy spread of racial, cultural and religious beliefs. It was inspired by the poignant book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?

Therefore, when the American Family Association -- another group I knew or cared little about two weeks ago -- and its disciples aggressively launched an all-out information assault attempting to discredit this event as something that is at the least misleading if not outright false... that group's trustworthiness must be questioned.

I’m not an apologist for the SPLC, nor am I thoroughly educated on their comprehensive history. I don’t doubt the SPLC has occasionally overstepped their bounds and stepped on the wrong toes.  However, a wise way to judge an organization and its aims is to look at their actual words and their actual deeds.

At first glance, and after more examination, one of these groups certainly looks cleaner and more honorable than the other.

The SPLC informs its readers of AFA leader Bryan Fisher by revealing the man’s own words. What a hero this guy is, wielding fear and bigotry in the name of Jesus. I’m not sure what scares me more, Mr. Fisher’s screeds, or the thought that a significant number of followers are out there proactively assisting him in the name of the very same deity I worship.

For the last half of the 20th Century, the timeless image of the bully was a muscle-bound galoot kicking sand in some nerd's face on the beach. In 21st Century America, that galoot wears a golden cross necklace and pushes around the weak and needy with righteous pride. After they've kicked the sand, maybe even kicked the person, the galoot lovingly reminds them that they're going to hell. Because that's what God would want.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation might never completely recover from the zealotry that infected it last winter, and that tragedy, too, will fall at the feet of uncompromising right-wing polarizers. Obliterating charities, splitting them into shards, to accomplish their goals seems to be acceptable collateral damage.

Fearmongers and zealots are getting increasingly aggressive, often creating fictional or truth-stretched narratives, forcing organizations and individuals who have minimal involvement into defensive responses and "picking sides." They draw lines in the sand. Their mission is to drag the entire world, in all of its nuance and complexity, into their binary universe of right and wrong, heaven and hell, good and evil.

What I want, honestly, is for people to work together, to compromise, to negotiate. When did that start making us "relativists"? When did that stop making us human?

Like that nerd on the beach, I don't want to fight. I just want to hang out with my cute little beach babe and enjoy the rays. But they keep kicking sand in my face, in her face, in the faces of others who are just trying to live their lives.

At some point, we're forced to consider whether the only way to stop it is by fighting back. Unfortunately, that solution doesn't seem to be in the New Testament.

FOLLOW-UP (10/26, 8:50 a.m.): In light of rkeefe57's comment, it's worth noting that the left wing extreme has more than its share of extremists willing to bend rules and the truth for their cause. Personally, I get more aggravated at the right wing portion because they so often endorse their cause hiding behind the name of God. From PETA and Greenpeace to the SPLC, it's clear that the right doesn't hold a monopoly on these matters.

6 comments:

rkeefe57 said...

"Fearmongers and zealots are getting increasingly aggressive."

Well said, and you could add "fundraisers" to that list. Both the SPLC and AFA are pandering to their targeted audiences because it brings in the money. Lots and lots of money.

The SPLC claims that "X-thousand schools are participating in Mix it up Day" and nobody in the Media bothers to perform even the most rudimentary fact checks.

As you have discovered, there are schools on the list that are not participating, but the donors don't know that and some schools could sign up because of the "bandwagon effect."

The really ironic, (read: "hypocritical"), part of "Mix It Up Day" is that NOT ONE of the SPLC's top executives is a minority.

In fact, despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King's home church in Montgomery, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of authority in its entire 41-year history.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-fB

Even the laughably named "Teaching Tolerance" program has been led by "whites only" for 20 of its 21 years.

So who exactly do the white millionaires who run the SPLC "mix it up with"?

This information is available from the SPLC's own web site, but the Media will not report it.

It's a lot easier to simply regurgitate the SPLC's slick press releases.

Thanks for the great post.

Billy said...

@rkeefe57 - Thanks for your comment. I've added a follow-up caveat to the post recognizing your points. Conservative groups by no means hold a monopoly on playing aggressive and dirty.

Anonymous said...

A simple check of the website reveals that in looking at the Board of Directors of the SPLC (there are 12 members), there are, with some overlaps, 4 women, 3 African-Americans, 1 Asian-American, at least 2 Jewish people, etc. etc. I didn't look beyond that, but...........at the very least, a reasonably-diverse Board of Directors must be satisfied with the make-up of the SPLC itself.

G. B. Miller said...

Color me confused, but how does a program that teaches tolerance (at least that's how I'm reading here in the post) translates to so-called "Indoctrination to Homosexuality"?

As far as I know, you can't "indoctrinate" anyone to become homosexual. You either are or aren't. It's not a choice, it's genetics.

Personally, I don't see the problem in teaching someone tolerance of others. While there are some aspects of "diversity" I'm not too thrilled about, having tolerance of others, no matter who or what they are, is something I for.

If those idiots at the AFA want a reality check, they should talk to some of the teenagers who are gay that my guv'ment agency deals with on a daily basis. Better yet, they can talk to my co-worker whose son just came out about a month or so ago, about the meaning of "tolerance".

TommyD said...

Birry,
Probably the best post you’ve written so far. My school is having a Mix-it-Up Day on Tuesday. It was a heart-warming scene watching the various members of this club, from all walks of life, stand before the student body and explain the goals of mixing it up., none of which have to do with a “homosexual agenda.” I too am disappointed, even disgusted, with the religious right’s usurpation of their party’s leadership, as well as the eerie silence and acceptance from the broader conservative base that accompanies it. It is not unlike the radical mullahs in the Islamic world who have claimed to speak for the worldwide Islamic community. They both spew hatred and intolerance while promoting social policies that would make Jesus or Mohammed cringe. The majority of Muslims, who are moderate, fear that speaking out against them will bring condemnations of being a “bad Muslim.” Likewise, fundamentalist Christians have claimed a monopoly on biblical interpretation. I am bewildered by those evangelical Christians, who claim to feel the love of Christ and wear WWJD bracelets prominently on their wrists, while simultaneously ignoring the Sermon on the Mount. It wasn’t always like this. Outside of some episodes in American history when Jonathan Edwards gave his fiery speeches about heaven and hell, the Christian church was one that was far more concerned with God’s clear instructions to care for the poor and the meek. And though you’re correct to point out in your post-comment that there are extremists on both sides, I think the scales have tipped considerably to the right. I hope that more Americans will reject the myopic voices of extremism on both sides and their monopolizing of the “truth”, and that this country can return to rational discourse, empathy and the ability to compromise.
Again, great post! We need to set New Orleans dates.

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