A Pride Month Confession

A Pride Month Confession

I packed up the props I’d used in class. I carefully inserted my students’ papers and exams into the “to be graded” pocket in my bag. I touched the glass window beside my desk, shivering involuntarily.

I wrapped my warmest scarf around my neck, pulled on the hat my students (and my own children) laughed at, laced my snow boots, and put on my heavy coat. It was winter in upstate New York and the sidewalks were still imperfect from the twenty-three incher two days ago. Trudging through the student parking lot toward the small faculty lot I used, I noticed a quarter inch had fallen while I was distracted by student conferences.

I looked forward to sitting around a fire with my family after my long day. I wondered if I should pick up a pizza for dinner or if Maggie had another idea. Though I certainly didn’t feel like cooking, my mood was upbeat. I was gratified by the discussion we’d had in class that afternoon. My students were finally grasping the concepts they’d been struggling with for several weeks.

When I got to my car, all of the joy flushed out of me. Scrawled across the back of my car, in the newly fallen snow was one word: Fag.

I perceived this as a reaction to the rainbow sticker across the top of my rear window. I perceived this as a hateful act. I felt diminished. If I felt this way…what if? What if, I wondered, this had happened to one of my students? What if I was gay or lesbian or transgender? What if this action was directed at an immutable part of who I am?

The next morning I reported the issue to Security. None of the thousands of students at the college should be subjected to hate based upon their orientation. The connection between my rainbow sticker and the disgusting word scrawled in the snow was clear, I said.

I was dismissed. It was random, I was told. Nothing they could do, I was told.

Next, I spoke to my Department Chair. She was sympathetic to my concern for students, agreeing it was a hateful act. Unfortunately, political considerations and transitions-in-the-making kept her from using any of her remaining clout in support of pushing this issue. She gave me strategic assistance but essentially I was on my own.

I contacted the head of Security. In what I think was a well-articulated email, I described what happened. I expressed my concern for LGBT students.It was random, I was told. Nothing he could do, I was told. 

In the end, I dropped it. I was getting nowhere. That was more than fifteen years ago.

To this day, I regret I didn’t work harder at getting at least an acknowledgement that a hateful act had occurred. I don’t recall whether, as a non-tenured faculty member, I was afraid of causing trouble. Perhaps, but I think I’d remember that emotion. I think the sin is that I dropped the matter because I was busy. I gave up because it was easier. How many students, staff, and faculty suffered similar hatred because I stopped too soon?

Holy One,
I confess I’ve failed to use all of my gifts and talents when faced with injustice. Forgive this sin. Too often I use busy-ness or “not my fight” as an excuse for allowing an injustice to continue. Forgive my self-focus. Nag me. Remind me that bumper stickers are not enough. Move me. Keep me restless for your dream for our world. Help me to strive for justice wherever and whenever I encounter it. Amen.

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An Unpopular Perspective

I cannot celebrate the collective sin that results in the death of any human being. I am deeply disturbed by the giddiness of Americans in Times Square chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. (See http://cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2011/05/02/bin.laden.timessq.cheers.wabc)

This is an inappropriate response in that it indicates an ignorance of the interconnectedness of all of us who live on this planet. When we believe that our only action is to eliminate another human being rather than seek and find reconciliation, we have strayed from God’s dream and will for humanity. I concede that because of the existence of sin in the world, sometimes we cannot see a response to others that is inherently good. This is particularly true when we’re experiencing the pain and trauma of an attack as heinous as the one Americans, especially New Yorkers, endured ten years ago. That is, we sometimes see war and killing as the only rational response. This is where our sin lives.

A joyous response to the killing of Osama bin Laden represents the dehumanization of others. (Even Osama bin Laden is created in the image of God.) It represents an us versus them mentality that will not bring us to ultimate reconciliation as a human race. It is sin. Those who masterminded and carried out the attacks in 2001 on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center dehumanized Americans. How different are we when we joyously chant in Times Square upon the death of Osama bin Laden?