We keep trans­fer­ring our hate, mostly to get what we want

The Bradenton Herald - - Faith & Values - BY THE REV. DR. ROBERT D. SICHTA

Owned one once. Thought they were nice. Roomy, great for long trips. Hard to be­lieve they’ve be­come a dirty word.

Now, one’s headed our way. A car­a­van. Filled with rag-tag peo­ple wear­ing flip-flops, bent on rav­aging our lawns with weed eaters, tear­ing into our floors with mops and brooms, and yank­ing our toma­toes from their vines on their hands and knees while con­vers­ing in the first Eu­ro­pean lan­guage spo­ken on our shores.

In Wis­con­sin, dairy farm­ers are wor­ried there won’t be enough of them, see­ing as how they’ve es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for hard work muck­ing barns at low pay to sup­ply us with milk.

Let me as­sure you, Je­sus trav­els with them — as does Mo­hammed, Abra­ham, Bud­dha, Gane­sha, Amat­erasu and other en­light­ened peo­ple of faith who are won­der­ing what’s gone wrong with our soul.

They’re walk­ing, from Hell to their con­tex­tual per­cep­tion of Heaven. We’re wait­ing, with troops at the bor­der. If they throw rocks across the Rio Grande, we’re go­ing to shoot bul­lets into an­other coun­try. How Chris­tianMus­lim-Jewish-Bud­dhistHindu-Shinto-and-oth­er­faiths is that? Makes you proud to be an Amer­i­can, right?

The great founders of our faiths walked with the poor, the dis­ad­van­taged, the marginal­ized, the out­cast, the ig­nored. There were more of them then. There are fewer now — es­pe­cially in the United States of Amer­ica.

We know that, and so do the peo­ple we have de­cided to de­fine as the “other” — those de­scribed us­ing synonyms such as an­i­mals, crim­i­nals and in­vaders, none of which ap­ply.

We know that, and so do the peo­ple in the car­a­van.

We know they’re be­ing used as po­lit­i­cal fod­der, and so do the peo­ple in the car­a­van.

We’re sup­posed to be re­li­gious peo­ple who fol­low a mo­ral and eth­i­cal code. So are the peo­ple in the car­a­van.

So do our troops — the ones be­ing called to the bor­der, many of whom have al­ready seen the Hell of com­bat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That was me, more than 50 years ago.

First, I marched from Selma to Mont­gomery. It was March 1965. We slept

in muddy fields in Lown­des County, where it rained, along the way. Be­cause I was white, peo­ple yelled ex­ple­tives in my di­rec­tion.

Some­times they threw things in my di­rec­tion, in­clud­ing fe­ces. A year later I was camp­ing north­west of Hue, a Navy man in the com­pany of Marines. Some­times peo­ple threw things at us there, too, in­clud­ing grenades.

This past Sept. 11, I walked High­way 80 again. I was in the area to help a neu­ro­sur­geon from Pak­istan be­come a U.S. cit­i­zen. I found the camp­site where we slept — it wasn’t hard; there’s a big sign mark­ing the place, call­ing it his­toric. I’ve never gone back to that place north­west of Hue. Don’t know if I could deal with pain on both sides. Hope here aren’t any signs.

The 54-mile walk in Alabama was about let­ting ev­ery­body vote. So was the walk­ing tour in Viet­nam.

This time, no­body yelled at me. No­body threw any­thing. Peo­ple at a his­tor­i­cal cen­ter even asked to pose with me for a pic­ture. Still, it was harder than I’d thought it would be.

We hadn’t been try­ing to be a part of his­tory, in Alabama or Viet­nam. We were try­ing to do what we thought was right for the peo­ple of our coun­try.

As a vet­eran of the march and the mil­i­tary ser­vice, both com­bat, it all comes to­gether now.

We keep trans­fer­ring our hate. Some­times out of fear. Mostly to get what we want. And we keep declar­ing our­selves righteous.

This past Tues­day, most peo­ple voted their con­science. Some peo­ple voted out of hate. Against peo­ple they didn’t know, places they didn’t un­der­stand, com­ing to Amer­ica in car­a­vans.

Be­cause there are places I don’t want to go back to, I un­der­stand that more than I’d like to ad­mit. That does not erase my hu­man re­spon­si­bil­i­ties — par­tic­u­larly as a per­son of faith.

Those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing do­ing my part to make sure ev­ery­body gets a fair shake, is heard, gets a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence free­dom and gets to vote. Fairly, openly, morally, eth­i­cally and hon­estly.

We voted that way as a peo­ple in Florida on Tues­day. Sixty-four per­cent of us said felons could re­gain their right to vote with­out a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial stand­ing in the way. Even as we split our votes for other of­fices.

Some­how that gives me hope, even if we’ve still got a long way to go. Some­how that tells me most peo­ple’s faith in­forms them in good and de­cent ways. Some­how that says enough of us rec­og­nize the Hell be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by peo­ple from other places. That enough of us know we came from other places, too.

Maybe those marches in Alabama and Viet­nam were worth the scars. Maybe we’re truly not afraid to open our eyes in order to see whose walk­ing with us.

Those are my per­sonal, ram­bling thoughts of faith on the eve of the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice we now call Vet­er­ans Day. The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Sichta is the Pas­tor Emer­i­tus of the Con­gre­ga­tional United Church of Christ in Braden­ton, an open and af­firm­ing body in pur­suit of a 21st Cen­tury Pro­gres­sive The­ol­ogy. They meet at 10 a.m. each Sun­day at 241 Whit­field Ave. Faith Mat­ters is a reg­u­lar fea­ture of Satur­day’s Braden­ton Her­ald writ­ten by lo­cal clergy mem­bers.

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