Once upon a time, in the land of Naïvète, I believed trolls existed only in their purest form on the Interwebz. Never, ever have I been so wrong. Nor have I ever been so frustrated at being wrong.
Lets get some background, shall we?
There is this group in Oklahoma (and a few other places, though I don’t know if the various groups are affiliated) called the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. Every so often, you’ll be out driving in OKC and run across this fairly large group of African American guys in black fatigues and combat boots. Over this, they wear white surplices (clerical garb, ok?) and stoles of various colors. Also, funny hats. But hats are awesome, and should never be mocked, even if they make me go “huh?”
If there’s more than four of them, they’ll have a big sandwich board with a Star of David on it, and contact info and so on for their church and what they believe, etc,.
I don’t listen to them. For the most part, it’s a question of convenience. They set up by roadways and gas stations, and there’s really no good place to park and listen. Also, the places they can be found are places that I’m only likely to be while on my way to somewhere else in a hurry.
All this giving you a picture in your head? Good. Last fact, before we move on: there are no winners in this blog. The Israelite Church is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group of the Black Separatist variety. Immensely long story short (and made slightly inaccurate in the shortening) black separatists want segregation and/or all individuals of African descent to go back to Africa. Don’t ask why, I don’t know, nor do I particularly care to speculate. If I ever meet one, I’ll ask.
So, there is troll numbah one: a group preaching a return to racial segregation in the name of a God.
Now, I pull up for gas with my husband at a 7-11 and they’re out on the corner yelling into the wind (literally) and doing their thing. Got no clue what message they’re preaching, cause I can’t hear them, but there’s people honking and taking pictures and video. Any spectacle in Oklahoma is a major win, even if it’s bigoted crap. Often, especially if it’s bigoted crap. So they’ve got an audience.
Enter troll numbah two in the form of a dumpy little woman. As I walk into the station to pay for my gas, I see this little fat lady waving her purse and shouting about Jesus. This being Oklahoma, people shouting about Jesus are not uncommon, and I ignored her as well.
By the time I get out of the station, this little lady is standing in front of the Israelite Church congregation, screaming at the top of her lungs to drown them out. Not even a coherent argument, but just over and over “He died for us all!”
I have never seen such a ludicrous display. Ever.
On the one hand, we have a group of individuals shrouding bigotry and separatism in the trappings of religion.
I’ve noted before that spirituality is important to me; taking a gift of faith and perverting it to spread hate or fear is one of the few things on this earth that truly disgusts me.
But standing in front of them, on the other hand is a woman who is fairly clearly attempting to represent a faith system that is one of the most dominant in the world. And she is representing it by screaming at the top of her lungs, seeking to invalidate an argument simply by repeating one of her articles of faith.
For those not into theology, an article of faith is defined as a precept or belief that is believed not because it is supported by rational validation, but because one has faith that it is true. In other words, this woman is trying to disprove their argument by repeatedly screaming a “fact” that is only true to her because she believes it is!
The worst bit? She won.
Now this isn’t the worst bit because I agree with black separatism; nor is it the worst because I dislike Christianity. This is the worst bit because she demonstrated the kind of intolerance that gives fuel to the fires of discrimination, bigotry and racism. Her victory made the Israelite Church’s point for them. And both more clearly and more sharply than any hours of preaching could ever have accomplished.
And, worst of the worst, it proved to watcher’s that there’s no need for a rational debate. There’s no need for accord or compromise. If you hold a majority belief, you can simply scream at a minority until they shut up and go away.
Again, I do not condone their belief, but it was their Gods-given right to stand on that corner and preach whatever they wanted short of incitement to violence. And this one woman shut them down by screaming to the point of near incoherence, repeating a belief.
Is this it? Is this how we solve debates in our country now? Mud–slinging and name calling, and screaming to drown out opposing views until the loudest voice stands alone?
Watching that display, I have never been so ashamed to call myself human, and even more to call myself American. Because I saw in that moment every stereotype that I’ve heard about our “great” nation encapsulated perfectly. I saw the bombastic voice, unheeding and uncaring to have it’s closed mind opened. I saw hate preached on a corner, for the sake of hate. I saw a crowd of people watching, laughing like maniacs and recording this for the value of entertainment, to show their friends and laugh at the idiots.
I saw a pageant in miniature of all the things the world must see in us. And I saw, to my shame, that they’ve all got more than a grain of truth.
Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Jeremy Cloud and do not reflect the opinions or views of any other Pioneer employees.
To contact Jeremy Cloud, email firstname.lastname@example.org.