Tag Archives: civil rights

Statues With Limitations: Part One


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Over the past week I have written a number of articles about what happened in Charlottesville and I have promised to write something about the Confederate Monument controversy. Last night I posted an article about that controversy in light of one particular monument in Colfax, Louisiana, the site of one of the most brutal massacres committed in the name of White Supremacy in our nation’s history. I do hope that you read it and share it. 

Likewise I have I have posted quite a few articles and links to articles regarding what happened at Charlottesville and the subsequent debate about removing Confederate statues on my Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Today I am beginning a two part article dealing with my thoughts on the monuments themselves. This section is more of a background article before part two which will deal with my thoughts about the monuments themselves in the broader context of them, as well as other monuments not necessarily connected with the Confederate monuments. 

First, as to the Confederate Monuments, my comments are not meant to impugn the lives of people’s ancestors. My family on both my paternal and maternal sides fought as members of the 8th Virginia Cavalry on the side of the Confederacy even though their part of Virginia officially sided with the Union. One of them, the family patriarch on my paternal side was a slave holder who after the war refused to swear his allegiance to the United States and probably was a member of White Supremacist groups after the war. There is no doubt of what he fought for, and the fact that he was a traitor and remained a traitor to our country. I don’t know as many details about the maternal side except they were part of the same regiment, except that they were not subject to conscription and as such all volunteered willingly to fight against the United States. For that is a problem, I find it hard to honor their military service because it was against the United States. There are no records that I know of, no letters that they wrote which say what they thought, and they are not “mentioned in dispatches” (the manner in which the Confederate Army honored soldiers) for any particular gallantry, in fact the history of the regiment mentions that my paternal family patriarch deserted in February of 1865. 

I do draw a distinction between the kinds of men that served in the Confederate Army. In particular I make a distinction between those that were eager volunteers for the Confederacy and those who were unwilling conscripted in the Confederate Draft beginning in early 1862 because the Confederate Army could not get enough willing volunteers. These men were drafted, often against their will. Most had no means to pay for a substitute or did not have political connections. Interestingly one of the notable exemptions to the Confederate Draft were the men who were exempted  because they owned more than ten slaves or worked for someone that owned more than 20 slaves. This was known as the Twenty Slave Rule, which modified in Draft Law of 1864 to 15 slaves. As you can imagine many poor Whites who owned no slaves found the rule to be quite unjust, but privilege is just that, quite unjust. 

As a result the conscripts were frequently abused by the willing volunteers and frequently deserted. When found, most were summarily executed following a Drumhead Trial. As the war became more desperate, deserters were summarily exectuted without trial. Hundreds of deserters from the Army of Northern Virginia were executed in the last months of the war by the direct order of Robert E. Lee simply because they were trying to go home to their families who had been displaced by the advance of Sherman’s army in Georgia and the Carolinas. These men were victims of the war and secessionist leaders as much as anyone. If you read some of their letters they are heartbreaking. 

Those who volunteered to serve the Confederate cause, especially men who had been officers in the United States Army or Navy no-matter their reason for serving the Confederacy, their gallantry as soldiers, battlefield heroics, leadership skills, or tactical brilliance were traitors to the United States. Yes they were Americans, and many had served honorably before the Civil War, but that makes them no less traitors. After the war a good number of the survivors reconciled with the Union, opposed the growing myth of the Lost Cause, and took no part in subsequent violence or in implementing discriminatory measures against the now free Blacks. Among the most prominent of these men were Lee’s lieutenants James Longstreet, Richard Ewell, John Mosby, and Billy Mahone. I have no doubt that A.P. Hill would have joined them had he not been killed in action at the end of the war, and following the war his widow opposed Jubal Early and other proponents of the Lost Cause. Robert E. Lee himself did reconcile and opposed the use of the Confederate flags, uniforms, and monuments. I will explore Lee’s actions before, during and after the war in another article that I have already started to draft. 

Interestingly, very few monuments, except those on battlefields are dedicated to these men in the South, except from Robert E. Lee who ironically wanted no part of them. Nor are there monuments in the South to Southern officers who remained loyal to the Union during the war including Generals Winfield Scott, George Thomas, John Buford, John Gibbon, Montgomery Miegs, and Admiral David Farragut. 

Likewise there is another class of men who have to be considered when dealing with the Monument Controversy. These were the political leaders whose actions led directly to the deaths of three quarters of a million men, including hundreds of thousands of Southern men, and the destruction of much of the South. How even the most devoted Southerner who wants to honor their soldiers can tolerate monuments to these leaders in their back yards is beyond me. These were also the men who ensured that every state legislature made sure that the primary reason they gave for secession in their various articles of secession was preserving and expanding slavery, while maintain white superiority. As Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens noted in his Cornerstone Speech:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

There is a final group that needs to be considered. These were Confederate veterans, including notables like General Nathan Bedford Forrest, as well as men who did not serve in the war who joined paramilitaries that terrorized and killed newly free blacks. There were others who established the Black Codes which were pre-Jim Crow laws that placed many former slaves into a form of slavery by other means, imprisoning them and making them forced laborers on plantations, and businesses, many owned by Northerners. 

Racism and slavery was at the heart of the war, and it was not just a Southern problem. Many Northern businesses and banks had a strong financial interest in slavery, and there was a strong anti-war, pro-Confederate movement in the North that fully approved of slavery, the post-war Black Codes, and Jim Crow. Likewise there were many Northerners who were just as racist before, during and after the war. There were and are still are many Sundown Towns in the North and states that were never a part of the Confederacy. In no way can Northerners be fully excused from the crime of slavery, nor can they be absolved of being as racist any pro-slavery Confederate or Jim Crow proponent. Some of these men have monuments built in their honor which likewise should be examined if we are going to talk about the Confederate monuments. 

As to the monuments themselves, the vast majority were erected after the Plessy v. Ferguson case that legalized the Jim Crow Laws and empowered the movement to disenfranchise blacks, to fire them from positions in Federal and State governments, and to use violence against Blacks to keep them in line. Almost all of the monuments which were erected between 1895 and 1930 were put up not to honor the men who served but to remind Blacks of their status. The same is true of the next major surge of monument building which occurred during the Civil Rights movement, again to demonstrate to Blacks that they were subordinate to Whites, and many of these monuments were erected in places where no Confederate soldiers came from, and others which commemorate men who committed terrorist acts and murder against Blacks in the years after the war. In many case these monuments are located in cities and towns that are heavily African American. Two of these are no far from where I live in Norfolk and Portsmouth Virginia. They have different histories which I think leads to a discussion about their context. 

So, that is some of the background. I’ve written a lot about slavery, secession, and Jim Crow and will put some of those articles out again, and tomorrow I will have my proposal on what I think should be done with the various monuments. This will take into the context each type of monument and how to respectfully deal with them and how people feel about them, both opponents and supporters. In looking at what I wrote here the series may well be more than two parts. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under civil rights, civil war, History, News and current events, Political Commentary

Basketball Court Update: An Activist is Born 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

What an exciting day to be alive and to do something that matters for kids. I have written a couple of times about what is going on in my neighborhood regarding getting the kids of our neighborhood a safe place to play. Since I have shared some of the background in those articles I’ll just tell you about the special meeting of our neighborhood association board of directors which was called to discuss the issue. 

Bottom line up front the board is now looking at ways to keep the courts open and plan for an eventful multi-use facility to replace the current tennis courts. The tennis courts are seldom used and the placement of temporary basketball hoops has resulted in a number of good things, although there are some problems which can be worked out. The really good thing is that the kids now have a safe place to play and don’t have to play in the streets since our parks are mostly covered with very nice lakes. In a number of surveys residents have voted by over a two to one margin to keep the courts. 

That being said, a couple of white ladies, including the lady that got me energized about this by coming to my do to complain and enlist me to help get the courts shut down got the first words in. They were negative and one told such a bold faced lie how two blocks away she could hear the kids cursing over her television that most people were shocked. The lady who complained to me went on her usual way to complain about the kids, but other than them most people were supportive and offered suggestions to the board that were generally well received. 

I got to speak to and I have to say that I was persuasive, witty, and even entertaining; and I’m sure that I offended those ladies and maybe a couple of other self-righteous would be dictators. But as Thomas Paine said: “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” 

So I opened my comments somewhat irreverently, with  with the phrase “May it please the court.” I then introduced myself and noted how long we had lived in the neighborhood and noted that despite the fact that I was a Navy Chaplain with 36 years of military service that I was quite the liberal social justice activist. I then recounted how when I was in Iraq Judy had approached the board about basketball courts and was told by a board member “we have to keep undesirable elements out.”  That brought a gasp from some people and some a number of people nodded their approval. What the people back then said was that they didn’t want Black  kids playing there in so many words even though those are our neighborhood kids. I was able to point out the racism without even saying that word. 

So I continued and pointed pointed out that I wouldn’t have known about the controversy if the older lady hadn’t come to my door to complain about the kids, and pointed her out. That shook her up, she didn’t expect to get called out in public. Later the old bat tried to shut me down by saying “did you say I harassed you?” So I turned and addressed her for a quick moment, and said “yes you did and I won’t have any of it.”  At that the board President told me that I was not to address her but the board members per the rules of order. SoI replied “I do apologize, may it please the court, I was addressing you until she interrupted me so it’s only fair that I be allowed to tell her to shut up.” The board President allowed me to continue and I my words were surprisingly well received by at least half of the board and probably three quarters of the people in the room. 

My only regret is that I didn’t have Judy video my speech, which was longer, more eloquent, and funnier than the others, especially with my satire and ability to respond in the moment with my rapier wit, to the board, the audience, and the old bat. Likewise I didn’t have to threaten to go to the media, the city, or anything, I just spoke the truth and it wa quite the show. The kids and their parents loved it, some people even clapped when I sat down. I am so happy that we often binge watch our collection of all five seasons of Boston Legal. I have to say that I learned a lot from James Spader’s portrayal of attorney Alan Shore. 

The board voted down two motions to shut down the courts and has decided to come back to the issue and study how best to move forward. I volunteered to help out with the kids at closing time and will get a key from the manager tomorrow, heck, I may even get my own basketball to shoot some hoops and get to know them better. 

Over all it was a very nice first outing as a budding community social activist. As one of my friends told me a couple of weeks ago, this might be part of my post-Navy calling. I could see that and I am sure that social activism will be a big part of my life. 

So anyway, I have a couple of draft articles that I am working on and you’ll see those soon. One is about Robert E. Lee, of whose statues there has been so much controversy lately, and another dealing with how I think to best handle the statues. I’m going to hold that last one for a few days to let some of what happened in Charlottesville and other places calm down a bit so it can be read without all the current raw emotions of almost everyone including me overwhelming the message. I have some other articles that I will be producing as well on other hopefully less controversial topics. 

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, ethics, faith, Political Commentary

“Time to Oblterate the Marks of Civil Strife and the Feelings of Oblivion the Feelings it Engendered”  


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a short post today because I have become weary of cyber-battles with neo-Confederates and Alt-Right Nazis. That is not to say that I won’t stop fighting them, but don’t have a lot of energy to put into this post because of those battles. I guess it could be worse, I could be tired because I had spent the day getting real bullets fired at me by these people’s Confederate and Nazi ancestors. I have been shot at in combat by Iraqi insurgents, and no it is not fun, especially when you are the only guy there without a weapon. That being said, my ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy, and those on my paternal side were slave owners, Confederate officers, and unrepentant rebels who would not reconcile themselves to the defeat of the Confederacy. 

Unlike my ancestors, Confederate General James Longstreet was honest with himself and to the causes of the war. He wrote this in 1867:

“The surrender of the Confederate armies in 1865 involved: 1. The surrender of the claim to the right of secession. 2. The surrender of the former political relations of the negro. 3. The surrender of the Southern Confederacy. These issues expired on the fields last occupied by the Confederate armies. There they should have been buried. The soldier prefers to have the sod that receives him when he falls cover his remains. The political questions of the war should have been buried upon the fields that marked their end.” 

I am going to write about my rather nuanced view of statues dedicated to Confederate soldiers or leaders in the next few days. I had a really good, and lengthy discussion today with a fellow officer and friend about that subject. When I write it my words will probably not make anyone completely happy because I am not an absolutist in my views. While I reject what my ancestors fought for I also know that there were Confederate soldiers who were drafted against their will, Southerners like George Thomas and John Buford, who fought for the Union, and Northerners who fought political battles against Abraham Lincoln and wanted the South to win its independence because it would be good for business, and because they were as racist as the most rabid slave power secessionist. There were also Confederates who after their defeat, including James Longstreet, John Mosby, and Billy Malone who reconciled with the United States, recanted their secessionist views, and were demonized as if they were Judas Iscariot by the leaders of the Lost Cause cult because they did so. 

Robert E. Lee, who as so many statues in his honor including the one in Charlottesville that the Neo-Nazis supposedly went to defend, made this comment regarding such things, he was not in favor of them because he did not think it wise to keep open the wounds of war. He said:

“I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.” 

The neo-Confederates would be wise to heed to his words and those of James Longstreet. 

But I’ll leave that until I write that article. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under civil rights, civil war, ethics, History, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary

A Pivotal Moment: The Nazi “Beer Hall Putsch” in Charlottesville 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In light of the last two days of Alt-Right, or as it is more truthfully called Nazi violence and chaos in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am reminded of the words of General George Patton, “the Nazis are the enemy.” Over the last two days members of various New-Nazi, KKK, and other White Supremcist groups gathered in Charlottesville for what organizers called a “pro-white” rally. For the purposes of this article and for clarity’s sake, I’m just going to call all of them by the one ideology that they seem to agree on, Nazi. Some people might take umbrage to that characterization, but they can stick their umbrage up their asses. I’m not going to mince words, if people march with Nazis they are Nazis no matter what they call themselves, and any support given to them, even by omission, is giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America. 

On Friday night hundreds of Nazis marched through the campus of the University of Virginia carrying tiki-lamps as ersatz Nazi torches as they chanted “Blood and Soil,” “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” “Jews will not replace us!” And “Russia is our friend.” They also surrounded an African American church were people were gathered on Friday night. Saturday morning several dozen so-called militia members dressed in military style garb, wearing protective vests, and helmets, carrying assault rifles and other long guns marched through town allegedly to keep things from getting violent. But it did get violent, the Nazis clashed with some left-wing opponents and also assaulted peaceful anti-Nazi protesters, including one terrorist, a 20 year old white man from Ohio who drove his car into a peaceful crowed, killing one person and injuring nineteen. I’ll call the that man and the other violent Nazis terrorists,because that’s what they are. Later a Virginia State Police helicopter that had been observing the march crashed, killing both troopers. 

In a tweet President Trump condemned the violence and hatred “from all sides” but couldn’t be bothered to specifically call out the Nazis. It was a display of moral moral equivalency that will only embolden the Nazis. Yet even so former KKK Grand Master and perennial GOP candidate for elected office in Louisiana, David Duke called out the President in his own tweet, acknowledging the role that the Nazis, which he called “white people”‘ had in getting Trump elected, and saying that the rally “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” At the same time the Nazi Daily Stormer praised the words of the President and proclaimed the march “a victory of victories, this war has just begun… The Alt-Right has risen… There is no going back form this. This is our Beer Hall Putsch. this was the beginning of our revolution.” 

One of the Nazis at Charlottesville, “Michael Von Kotch, a Pennsylvania resident who called himself a Nazi, said the rally made him “proud to be white.” He said that he’s long held white supremacist views and that Trump’s election has “emboldened” him and the members of his own Nazi group. “We are assembled to defend our history, our heritage and to protect our race to the last man,” Von Kotch said, wearing a protective helmet and sporting a wooden shield and a broken pool cue. “We came here to stand up for the white race.” 

A few hours after his first tweet the President entered damage control mode and while he still could not call out the Nazis he tweeted “we must remember this truth: No matter what our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST.” I agree with the President, but he didn’t condemn the damned Nazis, he went to a moral equivalence argument and blamed everyone and the Nazis loved it, as the Daily Stormer wrote afterward “he implied that there is hate… on both sides. So he implied the antifa (anti-fascists) are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

After the march Richard Spencer and other organizers blamed opponents and the police for what happened and Spencer finished by threatening Charlottesville saying, “You think that we’re going to back down to this kind of behavior to you and your little provincial town? No,’’ he said. “We are going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe.” 

But over a week after another terrorist attack occurred, the bombing of a Mosque in Minnesota, Trump has yet to respond even as his aide Sebastian Gorka, who has his own ties to Fascist groups in Hungary stated that the attack might have been set by leftists in order to blame the right. Trump’s supporter in the conspiracy theory media, Alex Jones said that the violence was designed to “bring in martial law and ban conservative gatherings.” 

At least former Arkansas Governor and Trump supporter Mike Huckabee had the decency to remember something from his seminary days tweeting “White supremacy” crap is the worst kind of racism- it’s EVIL and a perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.” Likewise Senator Orrin Hatch tweeted: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideals to go unchallenged here at home.” 

Personally I cannot understand why the President finds it so difficult to just speak the truth and call these people what they are, but I suspect that I know why. For years he has tweeted and spoke so many words that are the polar opposite of what was his latest tweet quoted above is, that when I listened to his comments they seemed unnatural and forced. It looked like he was reading from a script written by General Kelly that he didn’t believe but was forced to say, and even then it was far too little. I will leave it at that for now. 

But here is the deal. This is not a subject that I enter into without a decent knowledge of American history and racism in America. My first book, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” Race, Religion, Ideology, and Poltics in the Civil War Era which hopefully will be published within the next year deals with the subject extensively. I know the history of American racism, the violence of the KKK, the White Leagues, the Red Shirts, and the White Liners, and their current descendants all too well to not call this out for what it is. 

What happened in Charlotte is going to keep happening until the President is willing to both condemn them and to take action against those who would use race supremacy to attempt to force the reinstatement of Jim Crow type laws on racism, and Know Nothing policies on immigration. The President will also have to do something about Gorka, Steven Bannon, and Stephen Miller, who all are key aides with long and strong ties to the Alt Right if he is to be taken seriously. Ulysses Grant was willing to make that hard call against White Supremacists despite bi-partisan opposition, but the President does not seem to be a Grant. 

This is a pivotal moment in our history. What we and our leaders do in response to the calls for an America based on the Blood and Soil doctrine of the new American Nazis matters to us all. Their aims are clear, and most have bet on the President to do their bidding. It will be a dark day if he does not stand against them. 

The Nazis by whatever name they call themselves are the enemy of every American who believes in that sacred proposition of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truth to be self-evident, all men are created equal…” This is something that one of the Alt-Right leaders who was at Charlottesville this weekend opposes. In a 2013 interview Spencer said “Our dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be… based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.” But that is nothing new in this country, George Fitzhugh, one of the Slave industry and later one of the Confederacy’s leading spokesman condemned the Declaration saying:

“We must combat the doctrines of natural liberty and human equality, and the social contract as taught by Locke and the American sages of 1776. Under the spell of Locke and the Enlightenment, Jefferson and other misguided patriots ruined the splendid political edifice they erected by espousing dangerous abstractions – the crazy notions of liberty and equality that they wrote into the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Bill of Rights…” 

As the President said today, this has been around a long time, maybe he and his supporters should actually read the history and re-embrace the Declaration and that sacred proposition that the Nazis so thoroughly despise. 

Again, this is a pivotal moment in the life of our Republic. 

I’ll leave you with that.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, History, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

An Accidental Activist 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I would have never thought that I would become a civil rights activist. I’ve been in the military my entire adult life and grew up in it as a child. I was raised with the concepts of loyalty, obedience, and honor as being central to my life. Likewise I have been a Christian pretty much all of my life, and a minister, priest, and chaplain for a quarter of a century. Typically when you mix military, Christian, and clergy the combination does not lead to one becoming a civil rights activist. 

But the long strange trip that has been my life to dates has thrust me into places that people like me seldom experience, much less live.  When I was in high school I was part of a school district that desegregated. There was a lot of opposition to it in the community, but my class at Edison High School, Stockton California, was as racially diverse as anyone could imagine and unlike many other places where the experiment went wrong, our class came together and made it work. Many of us have stayed in contact throughout the decades and our reunions are always well attended, we were, and still are, Soul Vikes. 

When left active duty to go to seminary and went into the National Guard, came to know what it is to be poor, to wonder where the next meal, rent payment, tank of gas, or money for prescription medicine might come from. I know what it is like to have a home foreclosed on, to have a car repossessed, to have bill collectors harass one day and night. To work full time with a college degree and not make a living wage because “good Christians” didn’t think seminary students deserved a living wage because they were not going to stay around after they were done with seminary. I know what it is to have lived in a crime and drug infested area in a rented house that did not have heat during the winter. I know what it is like to lose a job when mobilized to serve overseas, and have those that did it blacklist me among my profession when I complained to the Department of Labor when I returned home. 

Likewise, my profession as a military officer, first as a Medical Service Corps officer, and later as a Chaplain in the military and as a civilian hospital chaplain brought me into contact with people and experiences that I would not have had otherwise. I was assigned to help write the Army’s personnel policy for people with HIV and AIDS in 1987 and because I was the junior personnel officer I because the point of contact for every officer diagnosed with that dread disease. The experience made me realize that the people who got it, regardless of whether they were gay or straight were real human beings faced what was then a certain death sentence. So I started speaking up for them. 

When I was in seminary I worked for a social service organization working in the slums and barrios of San Antonio before moving to Fort Worth and for a time working as the administrative coordinator for a homeless shelter. 

When I finished seminary I ended up doing my hospital chaplain (Clinical Pastoral Education) residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. While most of my time was spent in the trauma-surgery department and the emergency rooms, I still dealt with many AIDS patients, some whose families rejected them, and if they were Gay, were also condemned by their families, pastors, and churches. While at Parkland I dealt with death every day, much of it violent, and I saw the vast disparity between those who had insurance and those who had to rely on charity or some kind of minimal government provided heath care program. 

When I came back from Iraq suffering from full-blown PTSD I came to understand what it was like to suffer depression, hopelessness, struggle with faith, and contemplate suicide. I also came to know what it was like to be ostracized and then kicked out of my church, and be sidelined by other Navy chaplains. 

As I struggled during the early stages of returning home and dealing with the craziness of PTSD my first therapist asked what I was going to do with my experience. I told him that regardless of the cost I would be honest and speak out. I started doing that with PTSD but soon as I was struck by how unjust I felt that I had been treated, and seeing others being treated the same way because of prejudice, whether it dealt with mental health, race, sexuality, religion, social or economic status, I began to speak up for them as well. Speaking up for the LGBTQ community, women, and Muslims, got me thrown out of the church I had served for 14 years as a Priest, but that only hardened my resolve to fight for others, even in my own neighborhood. 

That has continued now for almost a decade since I returned from Iraq. All of the experiences I had before then came more sharply into focus, and if you read this site regularly or scroll through my vault of over eight years of articles you will see how over the years I have continued to become more of an advocate for civil rights. But I think that this is something that my faith as a Christian and oath as an officer to the Constitution demands I do. The German pastor and martyr to the Nazis Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. That means that I have to fight the battle. 

Many of the causes that I fight for are not popular in Donald Trump’s America, but one cannot give up and be silent just because it is unpopular. Mahatma Gandhi said: “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

I have become an activist, I didn’t plan to become one, it just happened as a part of a very long long strange trip; one that is continuing in ways that I could never had imagined. When people ask how that can be when I am still serving as an officer I believe that my answer is found in the words of the German General, Ludwig Beck who died in the attempt to remove Hitler’s from power in July 1944. Beck wrote: “It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.” 

So anyway, here I am an accidental activist. 

Until tomorrow, 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Fighting for Justice in My Neighborhood Update: Let Freedom Ring and I Have not Yet Begun to Fight


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I made the first step against the racists in our neighborhood who on Wednesday succeeded in convincing the man who put the basketball hopes in our neighborhood to take them down. 

I called the neighborhood association office as soon as it opened this morning to ask what the hell was going on and to express my displeasure in what happened. I’m not going to go into detail today, but according to the lady who works in the office the hoops will come back this weekend. She told me about the alleged complaints and I told her what I had dealt with for a certain older white lady in the neighborhood last week. She knew exactly who I was talking about and she mentioned some of the complaints that were being made against the kids. So I told her about how much worse that I and the kids in the various neighborhoods that I grew up in behaved compared to these kids, and then said but we were white kids in a white neighborhood. She remained silent after that. 

But I was reminded of a story that my late dad told me about a man in his neighborhood in Huntington, West Virginia, who harassed kids for playing in the neighborhood. After being harassed and screamed at by the old man who lived on 18th Street Hill, my dad, his twin brother, and their friends waited until after dark one night when the man went into his outhouse. Once the hatful old geezer was safely in the outhouse they gathered around and pushed it down the hill, with him in it. Then they ran away, and never got caught. To me that was impressive. It wasn’t that they were bad kids, it was just that the old fart was an asshole. Sadly, we have indoor plumbing and no hills in my neighborhood or I would d what my dad and uncle did to the old racist bitch who has caused this situation in my neighborhood. 

But instead of just simply complaining and being a part of the problem I offered a solution. I offered to open and close the gate of the court, and spend time with the kids to make sure things were cleaned up at night and the area was secure. I have other neighbors who are willing to do the same. I also said that the association needs to post the rules about the use of the courts and reiterated my belief that since the developers and city haven’t done anything to give our kids a safe place to play that it was our responsibility to do so. I got no argument. I also announced my intention to run for one of the vacant seats on the homeowners association board of directors. For years people have asked me to do that but I didn’t want to, I just wanted to mind my own business. 

But now it’s different. My wife and I have an investment in this neighborhood. Though I have been deployed, been assigned as a geographic bachelor, and travelled a lot because of my military duties, Judy has lived here for fourteen years and we have been homeowners paying dues to the association for twelve years. We don’t have kids, but the kids of our neighborhood are our kids, and I will be damned if I stand by and let them be treated like crap, as less than human by people who should know better, 

I am hoping that the association will take up my offer and that of my friends to help the kids of our neighborhood. They are good kids, they just need a safe place to play, and if we as homeowners and association members cannot facilitate that then what the hell good are we?

I have become a civil rights activist over the years. I will fight for these kids who are mostly African American, I will fight for women, LGBTQ people, and immigrants. I believe in the proposition of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  To me that means everyone, including the black kids of my neighborhood. They are my neighbors and they are the children of God as much as anyone else. 

That may make me unpopular in some circles but I no longer give a damn, because I share the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” 

I re-read Dr. King’s speech last night and as I did tears welled up from my eyes. In fact I had a hard time containing them as I read the majestic cadence of his words: 

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And let me add, Let freedom ring in the suburbs of Virginia Beach Virginia and on on a unused tennis court on which kids can safely play basketball. 

And as Doctor King concluded:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

As of now I don’t need to go to my city council member, I don’t yet need to go to the NAACP, ACLU, or the local media, but if I have to I will. I will run for one of those vacant seats on the board and I will speak out every day until I see the dream of Doctor King realized in my neighborhood. 

I will not stop speaking out and I will work with my neighbors to do the right thing for our kids, the thing that developers, the city, and homeowners associations don’t do around here because honestly they really don’t give a damn about the kids. That is evident in the way the these neighborhoods were designed, with lakes, golf courses, and tennis courts, but no ball fields or basketball courts. Don’t get me wrong, I like the lakes, and the golf course, but why the hell should the kids have to play on the streets while unused tennis courts sit idle instead of being converted into basketball courts and a skateboard park? It wouldn’t be that hard, but some of my neighbors don’t want the kids here, so I am standing up today for the kids. I am not going to stop speaking out and I will be part of the solution, not just a complainer. If I am going to complain then I need to be part of the solution or I am no better than the people who do all that they can to oppress others. Actions speak louder than words. 

Anyway. Thank all of you for your kind and inspirational words on this website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. 

Spread the word my friends because in the words of the American naval hero, John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight.” 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under civil rights, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary

Going to War Against Neighborhood Racists and the Kempsville Lakes Homeowners Association: The Kids are Still Alright


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last week I wrote about the lady who came to my door trying to get me to join her in trying to get recently installed basketball hoops removed in our neighborhood. Yesterday, after the National Night Out  gathering in our neighborhood on Tuesday where at least 30 kids were playing basketball, those hoops were taken down with no notice to anyone. So now, the kids of of neighborhood have no safe place to play. If you want to read the details of the history behind this just go back a week or so on this site. I’m not going to rehash details today. 

I found out about this while talking to a couple of my neighbors after a pretty shitty day at work with multiple bomb threats and a couple of shit bombs left by one of my contractors. It was the whipped cream on my shit sundae for the day. 

My neighbors and I are all going to complain to the association tomorrow since the association office was already closed. But besides complaining to people who a few years ago objected to the idea of basketball courts by telling my wife Judy that they didn’t want “unwanted elements”  and tried to tell her that we have a “gang problem” I plan on doing more. 

The fact of the matter is that our homeowners association board which is composed mainly of older white people does not like the fact that we have a mixed race community and that most of the younger families with kids in the area are minorities, many who are military families. I am career military, having spent 36 years in the Army and Navy and having grown up as a Navy brat, where I was always an outsider. I am white. I am 57 years old. We have lived in this neighborhood for almost 14 years, though I have been deployed or assigned elsewhere much of that time. We like our neighborhood, we like our neighbors. Our town home block has been very stable with good neighbors, quite a few, including Larry, a junior high teacher and coach who has lived here longer than us, are African American. Crime is low and kids are well behaved, the biggest problem is that they have to play in the street because when this area was developed the land that could have been used for parks or playgrounds was turned into lakes. 

Today I am going to war. I will call the association, then I will call my local city councilman, the I will call the local chapters of the NAACP, and the ACLU, the latter which I am a member of at the national level, as well as local media, including television news outlets. What is happening is not right. When I was a kid we were allowed to play in our neighborhood and we were a lot less well behaved than these kids, but then most of us were white, living in predominantly white neighborhoods. Race does have its privileges. 

I am going to protest the overt racism of our homeowners association as well as some of our neighbors, especially the old bitch who showed up at my door last week complaining about the kids. They are going to get a fight from me and as much as I hate doing it I will probably have to run for one of the vacant seats on the homeowners association board. 

I’ll be damned if I let them get away with this. I am going to fight for the kids. I am going to war for them. They deserve better than this. 

Pray for me.

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under civil rights, Loose thoughts and musings