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“Clerk Kim Davis Will Be A Lonely Footnote in History”: Relishing In Her Little Patch Of Our Amber Waves Of Grain

Tricky business, this righteous outrage. You have to be so careful not to sound like a hypocrite while you’re deriding hypocrisy. Messes with your sleep.

In the past few days, America’s news media — from the largest organizations to the smallest blogs — have made a star of a 49-year-old woman in Appalachia named Kim Davis.

Davis is the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She is declaring a religious exemption for herself in her little patch of our amber waves of grain. And she’s an elected official, so no firing her.

I’m angry as all get-out over what Davis is doing, but I can’t blame her for relishing the national attention. She’s an American woman who, at her age, is supposed to be invisible. But there she is, popping up in everybody’s newsfeed on her way to becoming a lonely footnote in history.

After the U.S. Supreme Court essentially told her to knock it off, Davis released an online statement through her new best friends, the far-right Liberty Counsel. An excerpt:

I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.

I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage.

A brief interruption here to note what Jesus said about homosexuality.

Absolutely nothing.

Back to Davis:

To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word.

As that excerpt illustrates, Davis is unreachable regarding her version of Christianity. Ridiculing her faith, her appearance, and her multiple marriages, as so many have, only further convinces her of her rightness. She thinks God wants her to be a martyr. To her and those using her, our ridicule — our persecution — is proof that she is right.

We’ve been here before in this country, and as we have before, we will soon uproot this obstacle on the road to justice.

NPR’s Robert Siegel asked Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke whether Davis’ refusal to marry same-sex couples mirrors white officials’ refusal to accept racial equality in the 1950s and ’60s.

“It’s exactly the same situation,” Franke said. “I think that certain people in certain places are changing their view on homosexuality … but not everyone is there yet. And some people base their opposition to equality for same-sex couples — or for lesbians and gay men — in religion, but they can’t use those values as a justification for not performing public functions.

“So what we’re seeing now really in a way mirrors quite clearly what we saw in the 1950s, where many communities were more than happy to close all of their pools and playgrounds and public schools rather than having black children and white children play together. And we saw that resistance pass in a short period of time.”

We don’t need to mock Davis for justice to prevail. If we are to live our message, that all marriages are equal, then I’d rather treat her with the respect she has denied others. She can believe whatever she wants. Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, including in Rowan County.

Davis is a flawed human, and in that, she has a lot in common with the rest of us. As various news organizations have reported, Davis has been married four times, twice to the same man, and pregnant with twins by a man who was not her husband at the time. Eventually, she turned to God, hoping to find a way out of her mess of a life.

We can point to her circuitous route to redemption and her current state of religious certainty and declare her a fool and a hypocrite. Or we can see her as a woman who has joined that long list of humans looking for a chance to be something other than their biggest mistakes. I’m not going to get into the reasons my name is on the list. How about you?

I am not excusing Kim Davis’ bigotry. I just don’t want to let it harden my own heart.

I do, however, want to know why it is that the meanest of my fellow Christians claim they get their marching orders from God while the decent ones just keep acting like Jesus, loving everyone as best they can.

I’m going to be thinking about that all evening. I expect it will be a long night.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and an Essayist for Parade Magazine; The National Memo, September 3, 2015

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Religious Beliefs, Same Sex Marriage | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Violent Crime Is Largely Intra-Racial”: Black-On-Black Violence Demands Our Attention

Black lives matter.

That’s the powerful and relevant message that a loosely organized group of young activists have used as a clarion call to bring attention to the crisis of police violence against black citizens, usually unarmed black men. And its mere utterance is a scathing commentary on the current state of race in America, a reminder that it must be said. Shouldn’t it be obvious that black lives matter as much as white ones?

That’s true, by the way, no matter how those black lives are snuffed out, whether by powerful figures acting under the color of law, or by other black men who are angry, violent and unrestrained. The senseless loss of black life demands a response.

So let’s talk, too, about the surging rate of homicides in certain big cities around the country, including Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, and New Orleans. The crimes are occurring mostly in poor neighborhoods, and the victims — and perpetrators — are overwhelmingly black.This is a sensitive subject, a topic rarely broached in public by prominent black political and civic figures. Perhaps that’s because ultraconservatives, especially the racial provocateurs among them, use the numbers as a bludgeon, hammering away in order to muddy the debate about police violence. They try to excuse police brutality by evoking black criminals — as if law enforcement officials should not be held to a very different standard.

Moreover, they fail to note that violent crime is largely intra-racial — that is, committed by people against their own ethnic group. In other words, whites tend to assault and kill whites, while blacks tend to assault and kill blacks. “From 1980 to 2008, 84 percent of white victims were killed by whites and 93 percent of black victims were killed by blacks,” says PolitiFact, the fact-checking organization.

In any event, the ranting of right-wing rabble-rousers is no reason to shield our eyes from the worrisome incidence of black homicides and their debilitating effect on black families and neighborhoods. In 2013, the last year for which figures were available, homicide was the leading cause of death for young black men between the ages of 15 and 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a special 2014 report, “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States,” the Violence Policy Center wrote: “Blacks in the United States are disproportionately affected by homicide. For the year 2011, blacks represented 13 percent of the nation’s population, yet accounted for 50 percent of all homicide victims.” As stunning as that statistic is, it doesn’t adequately convey the shattered lives, the broken families, the decimated neighborhoods it represents.

If homicide were a disease wiping out black people at this alarming rate, we’d be demanding research, solutions, a cure. If a foreign enemy had laid siege to poor black neighborhoods in the same way, we’d send in massive manpower to root them out. But we’ve been peculiarly passive in response to black-on-black homicides, as if there is nothing we can do, as if it’s too difficult and too controversial to tackle.

Certainly, there is controversy aplenty, starting with legitimate differences among law enforcement experts about how to tackle the problem. Indeed, there are those among law enforcement officials who insist that heavy-handed police tactics, such as New York’s “stop and frisk” policy of random searches, are a useful tool in curbing criminal activity.

That seems unlikely. If oppressive policing were the solution, a city such as Cleveland ought to be one of the safest, given its documented history of out-of-control cops. Instead, it’s one of the most dangerous, according to FBI statistics.

But well-trained and diverse police departments, staffed by officers committed to treating citizens fairly, are certainly one part of the solution. Curbing our cultural obsession with guns would help. And, undoubtedly, so would ameliorating the root causes of the frustration that breeds violent crime, including joblessness, poor educational opportunity and inadequate housing.

None of those fixes will come quickly or easily, but they won’t come at all unless we find the will to acknowledge the problem. Publicly.

Black lives, including those lost to black violence, matter.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, 2007; The National Memo, September 5, 2015

September 7, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Police Violence, Violent Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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