Saddened by What I Saw, Inspired to be Better

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” -Jesus the Christ, Matthew 7:12

Call me odd, but I really enjoy going grocery shopping before the sun comes up. Hate my shopping habits if you desire, but WalMart is my store of choice when it comes to groceries. So, when I get a Wal-Mart experience at 6:00 AM, I have a sense of enjoyment: stockers working hard filling the shelves to ensure the customers are able to find what they need for the coming day; only one or two check out lanes open; an entire store where I make up 25% of the customers on site.

Late last week I was able to participate in such an activity; however, it ended up being one of the more somber moments I’ve had in quite some time.

I went in to get school folders – seven of them each with pockets on both sides when you open them up. I had an interview in front of a board and wanted to supply them with a bit of a packet about “me”. I bought the folders, got to the car, and double checked I picked up seven. Count six! Lame, right?!

So I head back in to get the seventh one.

As I approach the automatic sliding doors to go in to Sam Walton’s American Dream, there were three people exiting. A small white woman and taller but skinny black man, and a tall, well-built and bald white man. It was obvious in about two seconds that the bald white man was by himself and the white lady and black man were together.

How was it so obvious? “You f****ing N***er Lover. You’re a traitor to your race. Drug addict. You’re a disgrace to your race.” The words coming out of the bald man’s mouth were in various orders, but they were repeated and at volume 10.

The lady was yelling back, expletives, and the black man was telling the lady, “Baby, let’s just get [in the car] and go.”

Out of all of the commotion, it was the man who couldn’t change the color of his skin or his situation that was being the only classy one of the three.

My heart became very sad. As I walked in the store and picked out my last folder, I teared up. It simply burdened my heart with a weight that I can’t explain to know of the hate I just witnessed.

It is something I’m aware of… racism. I know it exists. I’ve stated in previous blogs that I have been called a Spic, been in fights with “friends” who called my mom a “N***er Lover”, listened to my grandfather call his son-in-law (my uncle) a towel-head, and been everywhere from work environments to barber shops where racist jokes and terms were nothing out of the ordinary.

However, what I saw on this particular morning saddened my heart.

Over the past three years I have found that we, mankind, have the endless capacity to love. It brings joy to us and joy to those who we extend it to. It lifts spirits and brightens days. Yet, there are people who have a true hate in their heart, a true ignorance in what mankind and the human experience are really about. Again, it hurt inside.

At the same time I feel blessed. While we will all come across these types of saddening experiences, let us be lifted up by the reality that WE don’t have to be like that. Let us find that endless capacity to love those around us – those that we know and those we don’t.

To do so is an amazing thing. Since I have found that endless capacity, my heart has grown and my ability to be a better human being to those I am around has been nothing short of a blessing in my life. However, it would not have been possible without the teachings of our Heavenly Father and also those I love and share my life with having shown me how that love is put in action.

So today it is God and those around me that I thank for the fact that I’m only able to give that love in which I’ve received.

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Sexual Orientation, Freedom, and the Law

Tonight, Springfield, Missouri’s City Council is going to revisit an issue it put on the back burner two years ago. It is an Ordinance that, if passed, will place the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community into the protected class category the same as women and minorities. It will prevent an employer from discriminating against any person LGB or T in that business owner’s hiring practice; it will place landlords at odds with city law if they discriminate in their leasing practices of that same community; it will be a violation of the law for a business owner to deny service to a potential customer due to their Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (SOGI) – meaning their status as a member of the LGBT Community. The penalty for a business owner if found in violation of this potential law if passed? $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.

Now, before I begin the discussion, I want to make something very clear. I hope those reading this blog that are opposed to it will see that there is no bigotry involved, no direct religious aspect involved, and no assumptions involved. I’m going to try and approach this from a logical, legal, and while I have my opinion, I hope an objective standpoint. I will add that some of the people I admire most in life are part of the community we are discussing, and this is nothing personal… I love and don’t judge; I’m as flawed a man as any; I believe that we all have our paths we choose in life and we must own them; and I believe I am no more credible a judge than the next man.

I also am a firm believer in freedom and man’s free will.

With that, let’s make sure we are on the same ground when defining freedom.

Freedom: the ability for one man to pursue his own self interests as long as doing so does not impede on the next man from doing the same. When there is a conflict, the default goes to the man on whose property the conflict resides or is about (property being anything one owns, including money). There are very few exceptions, but as a rule of thumb we are going to stick with this definition.

So, let’s visit what has been deemed the “SOGI Ordinance.” For me, this is not about bigotry, intolerance, hatred, or lack of understanding. Of those I have met who agree with me on what should happen to this bill I have yet to meet anybody that disagrees with my belief on why, though many people do in fact take the religious perspective as the main perspective in their argument. For me it is an issue of: (1) Safety; (2) Property Rights; (3) the 1st Amendment; (4) The Role of Government; (5) Tolerance.

Let’s take them one at a time:

  1. Safety: The proponents of this Bill will have you believe there is no other alternative and that doing this will only bring equality and harmony, tolerance and acceptance. What they won’t tell you about are the safety issues with this Ordinance – that is both the economic safety and the physical safety of the individual. What do I mean?
    1. If passed, this bill will allow any man who claims he feels like a woman to enter a woman’s restroom in WalMart, Applebees, gas station, or any other public venue. This is not about a concern so much of the “T” community – though there is that concern. Three words for Springfield: Craig Michael Wood (here, here, and here). All it takes is one sick pervert to decide he “feels like a woman” and having ill intent to destroy the heart of this community once more.
    2. If passed, this ordinance will not only enforce the non-discrimination of hiring and of leasing property, but also from services. If you host weddings you will be forced to host those of gay couples regardless of your convictions – just like in New York. If you are a photographer you will be forced to conduct wedding and engagement shoots for gay couples regardless of it violating your conscience – just like in New Mexico. If you own a bakery and tell a gay couple your religious beliefs would be violated if you made their wedding cake, you can be told otherwise by the police power of government, and you will make that cake – just like in Colorado.  Remember, in Springfield the punishment can be up to $1,000 fine and 180 days in the slammer… not to mention the fact that regardless of the validity of the complaint by the LGBT community member, your business will be all over the media. And this, all because a business owner decided to place his beliefs over the dollar.
  2. Property Rights: Really quick, you don’t have the right to a job! You don’t have the right to tell somebody what to do with their money! If you don’t like their point of view, their beliefs, their convictions, go somewhere else! It’s called the free market!
  3. The 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Let’s consider the second part of the quote – the Congress shall make no law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” with regards to religion. Now, there has been 200+ years of litigation revolving around what that term means. However, I would defer to the Father of the Constitution first: “James Madison’s statement that religion includes “the manner of discharging” duties to God….” As a linear thought, we can conclude that he didn’t say, “Only on Sundays,” or “Only when at church” – it says “exercise” means the manner in which we discharge our beliefs. As for my belief, I believe I have been charged to fear God in all I do and obey his commandments. I believe that pertains to every conscious decision I make – it’s not reserved for particular times and places – it means all the time and in all I do. And if we are to violate this law, have we the right to tell Muslims that because their religious garb offends us they have no right to exercise their religion? After all, they need to tolerate and accept me and my wants and expectations.  
  4. Role of Government: If we are able to be told how we are to practice our convictions and beliefs even on our own property, what is it the government can’t tell us to do?
  5. Tolerance: For two years I have asked the same question and never had a cogent answer given. I am told I need to tolerate and even accept others for who they are; I have been told I need to be non-judgmental; I have been told I shouldn’t discriminate because of a different lifestyle, belief, or conviction than mine. Shouldn’t that same ideal be reciprocated? Where is the tolerance, acceptance, non-discrimination, and lack of judgment towards me and my lifestyle, beliefs, and convictions? Jussayin’, if that’s not hypocrisy, I’m not sure what is.

For those paying attention, you are going to hear some things said tonight and in the near future that I would like to rebut ahead of time.

You are going to hear that if you oppose this Ordinance you are a bigot and religious zealot. No, actually I don’t want to interfere in any way or tell others what to do with their life. That’s their prerogative. However, I do have a problem with them saying I don’t have the same rights they do with regards to me pursuing my own interests.

This fight is going to be compared to that of slavery and women’s suffrage. However, at no time has the LGBT community been enslaved, denied the right to vote, made to use separate water fountains and restrooms, or lynched systematically and institutionally because they were LGB or T.

We are going to be told that there was a survey done in which 60%+ of respondents either witnessed discrimination or have been discriminated against. This survey was done by the same people who are trying to get this Ordinance passed (PROMO), it surveyed less than 300 people across the state of Missouri (population 6+ million), and less than 100 of those respondents had Springfield addresses (Springfield population 150,000+). Hardly reliable given the source and complete lack of statistical validity.

We are going to be preached at and told to be tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Please refer to the question posed in my 5th point above: “Where is the tolerance, acceptance, non-discrimination, and lack of judgment towards me and my lifestyle, beliefs, and convictions?”

I really hope I’m not perceived as being hateful. I know personally I’m not bigoted. I don’t want to come off as mad or spiteful. I’m not. I am, however, very concerned that inch by inch, we as Americans are having our rights taken away under the guise protection, help, and charity.

As somebody who has been called a Spic, who has been in fist fights because my mother was called a “N***er Lover”, had a grandfather who called his son-in-law (my uncle) a raghead, and listened to workplace jokes that were racist against all of the above, I have no room for hatred… it sickens me and I despise it. However, it exists and always will. The only thing legislation like this does is make people more partisan to their own point of view, and less likely to “tolerate” others when in fact those others are forcing their way in to the lives of those who aren’t doing anything other than trying to get by in today’s world.

Use Words Only When Necessary

It was Sunday after church when I made my way to the rehabilitation center of the local hospital. My Bishop asked me and one other church member to visit an out-of-town church member who was a patient there after having lost a limb in a lake accident and was finishing his several weeks of in-patient therapy. We were charged with administering the Sacrament (Lord’s Supper) to “Mr. M” and his wife. While we were to perform this ordinance and service to these two church members, the honor became more humbling than I expected.

The fellow church member and I arrived while Mr. M. was still in his physical therapy, so the two of us stood outside of his room while waiting for him to return. We talked and got to know one another, as we hadn’t had the opportunity to do so in the past.

As we were talking we heard – in the distance – a jubilant voice greeting what sounded like friends. That jubilant voice was Mr. M. He was in the process of telling his friends he was happy to see them, but he had to first visit with the “two gentlemen who came from church.” 

As he made his way from down the hall to his room, he invited us in and introduced himself and his wife. It is minimizing the character of these two people to say they were beautiful. 

We administered the Sacrament by both praying over and passing the bread and water representing the sacrifice Jesus the Christ made for each of us and also the renewal of the commitment we have made to him through baptism. As we did so, I had an overwhelming feeling about the man and woman I was honored to share this moment with.

Here is a man who in a sudden and violent change of events lost his leg. His life has been forever altered in ways most anybody will never understand. Yet, his soul could not be hid; it was a shining city on a hill… a candle that couldn’t be hid. 

As he thanked us for taking time out of our Sunday afternoon to visit him and his wife, I felt an overwhelming burden to share my heart with him. 

To paraphrase my words: “Sir, I know we have never met and may never meet again, but being here with you has been humbling. You have experienced this extremely unfortunate event and life-altering experience; but you remain positive, of good cheer, and a beautiful example of someone who doesn’t let something like this take his heart away from goodness. You are an inspiration to me.” 

As I turned from him I saw his wife with tears in her eyes. Placing my eyes back on him, I listened to him tell me of how his family, friends, and our Heavenly Father have allowed him to remain positive. 

As we left I thought about just hours before, in church, somebody reiterated the quote, “Preach the Gospel wherever you may go. When necessary, use words.” Today, Mr. M. preached the Gospel to me, and words weren’t necessary.