Now that I have pretty much gotten over the shock, and horrified outrage that this event is most likely actually going to happen, it’s time to write about it, to contribute to the resistance.
The officials at Texas A & M can’t seem to get out of having unwanted speaker, Richard Spencer, promote hate and division here.
I have been praying, researching all I can about what this guy, and the person who invited him, Preston Wiginton, and their Neo-Nazi (“Alt Right,” “White Nationalism”) are all about. I encourage you to learn all you can, as well.
I will surely be at the silent protests planned. I like the way the students are planning to do this: with Aggie dignity and decorum, but with courage to resist what is unacceptable.
I am happy that so many student leaders at A & M have voiced their opposition, including Hannah Wimberly, student body president, and Cecille Sorio, Corps of Cadets commander.
Our local paper, The Eagle, has done a good job educating and informing the community, and I think we will have a good showing as we protest outside this event. I hope to see many of my fellow Catholics, especially from my parish, St. Mary’s Student Center, there as well.
The Jewish student center, Hillel, has already planned to protest, and the Rabbi has publicly reacted to this. The Anti-Defamation League is sponsoring a briefing at Hillel which I plan to attend this week.
I was wondering if there was going to be a public Catholic response to this event. Then I realized that as the Catholic columnist for my local paper, that’s at least partly my responsibility.
My paper’s editor thought it best that I write a “letter to the editor” for this purpose. My regular column is mostly reflections. Besides, it just ran last week already. She said they did not invite the other religious writers to write about this, but she liked what I had to say. So I wrote. Here it is. 🙂
In case you don’t get the Eagle, or don’t live in Bryan-College Station, and you want to catch up on how we are doing with all this, you can check in here. Once there, search Richard Spencer and/ or Preston Wiginton.
Here is my own letter to the editor:
To my fellow Catholics, and to all people of good will in my community,
As we each consider our responses to this event, I suggest reading in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #s 1928- 1948, especially # 1946, regarding race relations in society and our responsibilities in that regard, according to the teachings of our faith.
I have been reflecting and praying Ephesians 6: 10-17 as well. It tells me we are not battling people; in this case, not Richard Spencer or Preston Wiginton, but the insidious, and often well- disguised hateful ideology they promote.
We should pray for the conversion of heart of all neo-Nazis to God’s law of Love.
The Saints of our Catholic Faith who were confronted with direct experiences of the evil one in person, confirm that the best response is simple resistance in the Name of Jesus, rather than argument or engagement. In the Gospel, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” confirms how to respond to someone speaking in ways opposed to the Gospel. We can say that with our actions very well, of course.
Let’s reflect on where we stand according to our faith, and then let’s live those values out with the humility, confidence, and love God commands.
May the Catholic Saints who died at the hands of the Nazis pray for us.
May the many Saints of color, pray for us.
May Mary, Mother of Jesus, a Jewish woman, blessed among all women, pray for us.
As Mary said, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you.”
We each have to discern what our responses should be.
As for me and my house, we will take this opportunity to serve the Lord of Love and righteousness by standing outside in quiet protest with the Aggies, rosaries in hand.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity to go back into fear, but of power, and love, and self control.”( 2 Tim. 1:7)
For more on Catholic teaching, and Church documents regarding racism and racial separatism, you might like: http://www.loyno.edu/jsri/catholic-social-teaching-cst-and-racism
A great article in response to this by a professor of History at TAMU: Let White Nationalist speak to an empty room
If you would stll like to sign the petition for the university to cancel this event, though a way has not yet been found:petition
If you would like to attend the silent protest during the event on December 6: Silent Protest
If you would like to attend the alternate event, Aggies United at Kyle Field that was announced last night by A & M President Young.
P.S. Good things have come of this event already:
- We are all better educated about what this movement is about and alerted that it can’t be ignored or wished away, but must be opposed vigilantly.
- Our town, and its university, have gotten in touch with what we are about, and energized to stand up for what we believe in. It has been unifying, overall.
- I bet there will be better vetting of anyone who wants to use the Memorial Student Center for an event from now on, as there is at some of the other places on campus. Thank goodness for that.
A good thing I hope will come of this is for all minorities be reassured that the rest of their community knows they belong, cares about them, and stands up for them and with them.
The world will be watching Texas A & M and Bryan-College Station, to see how we react to this. The “Alt Right” will be watching, too. I hope they all get an eye full.
Amen to that.
P.S. I wrote a story about the protest and my experience of it for ATX Catholic. So here is the addendum: Resist like a Catholic II: Protesting Neo Nazi-ism with the Aggies
December 1, 2016 at 11:28 am
Several years ago, A Nazi speaker came to West Allis, WI and addressed a crowd. I attended the rally. Afterward, I wrote an essay about it, and it wound up in my book about Hans. In any case, listening to the racist bastard was an educational experience that I found worthwhile.
Going back a bit, Alistair Cooke, the BBC correspondent, spoke at West Point when I was there in the late 70’s. I listened to his talk. It was fascinating. He reminisced about when he was a cub reporter for the BBC back in the 1930’s. He was in Germany at the time, and Cooke was fluent in German. He attended at least one of Hitler’s rallies.
Cooke’s comments were interesting, and I remember them to this day. He said that all the screaming and yelling that we see on the old newsreel footage was just the finale of Hitler’s speeches. The majority of Hitler’s talks were quiet and very subtle. Hitler would talk sensibly and sympathetically about the issues that the Weimar Germans had. He talked about family and work and love of country. Then he would slip in his comments about why things were so bad. Then he would talk obliquely about the enemies of the people: the Communists, the foreigners, and the Jews. It was all very smooth and seemingly rational. Only at the end of his speeches would Hitler go full Trump.
It is important for us to allow men like Richard Spencer to speak. Americans do that sort of thing. It’s called freedom of speech. I tell my students at the citizenship class about it. We then need to learn about these Nazis, and how they hate. We need to understand them. Then we need to condemn them in the harshest terms.
December 1, 2016 at 5:10 pm
Thank you, Frank. Last night I went to the Anti-Defamation League’s briefing at Hillel Foundation-B’nai B’rith and it was very interesting. One of the representatives of ADL said the best defense against hate speech is free speech. So I’m thinking about that, and a lot of the other things I heard there from ADL and from the people who came to listen and talk. I’m very glad I went.
December 3, 2016 at 6:52 pm
More thoughts: I think it’s easier for us who are not minorites to be happy with just an alternate event, and to see letting this guy talk as a free speech issue. At the briefing I went to at Hillel a lot of the students are genuinely scared, and see this as a failure of the university to protect them. They think they have a right to feel safe here and not fear a worsening of the problems they face all the time, of a spike in hate crimes, of making racists feel more bold to act out against them. Preston Wiginton has called for black men who “poison” our race to be beaten. That means my son in law. He thinks my gran daughter who is half African American) should not exist. So I feel this on a much more personal level. This kind of talk being a allowed is more than a free speech issue to minorities. For them it is a safety issue, and they also feel betrayed that this guy is being allowed to come talk about them. It isn’t a difference in ideas or academic freedom. If we were Jewish or African American or Hispanic, we might feel differently about this and a lot more freaked out by it. I have noticed that most of us here in BCS who don’t have to face racism personally are happy with the alternate event, and those who are the targets of the so called “alt right” feel that it is not enough. This bears thinking about. As for me, I will got to both the silent protest and the Aggies United thing. I hope my son-in-law stays home,for his peace and for his safety. My daughter and I would never bring beautiful coffee colored Arelani anywhere near anyone who might be coming to see this man speak. We non-minority people would do well not to be annoyed with those who are truly traumatized by this man being allowed to come into our community. To them it legitimizes their suffering and makes them feel that nobody will really protect them or make sure they feel they truly belong. They aren’t trying to be party poopers. Their concerns are personal and real. I am in the middle since I now have black family members. Though I was raised to be multi cultural and racially sensitive, it is different to see through the eyes of others and share to some extent, what they go through. I feel much more intensely about these things. I may have made that overly clear over these last several days, on Twitter and Face Book. 😛 Anyway, I hope you understand what I mean. With my my gran daughter in mind, I think that whether she should exist, or be a citizen of this country, whether she should have to deal with hate speech against her being normalized and legitimized should never be a question, or an idea to be considered. Whether someone should ever be allowed to come into her neighborhood community center and say she and her family should be kicked out of the neighborhood for their multi-racial existence should never be countenanced. She and her family should not have to put up with that. We can let people be hateful but we don’t have to pay for their visit, we don’t have to have them over. I understand the free speech thing. I get it. But I want people to think about this from a minority point of view if they can, for a minute.
December 6, 2016 at 11:51 am
I don’t know the background story for the neo-Nazi speaker coming to BCS. I am not sure why A&M can’t get rid of the guy, but I suspect they won’t let this sort of thing happen again.
Seeing as Stefan’s girlfriend, July, is effectively part of our family, we have the Latino connection going strong at our house. We don’t have any Peruvian grandchildren yet, but that day is coming eventually. Even so, I can’t know how a minority person feels, because that is something I cannot learn vicariously. I can empathize, but I will never really know it.
I know that people are scared. This situation is scary to me too. The question is how do we deal with the issue.
Karin and I had a long discussion on this topic yesterday after daily Mass. Karin views this sort of issue through her own experience as a German, and her understanding of German history. She kept asking me if I would let Joseph Goebbels speak to a crowd. I would. I would let him have his say, and then mock him mercilessly. The Germans have laws against hate speech, and all neo-Nazi activity is officially forbidden there. Does that make the Germans any more tolerant? Maybe not. Gerhard, the son of a good friend of ours in Germany, is big into German nationalist stuff that is online. Gerhard has probably never listened to a Nazi speaker, but he has been infected anyway. My point is that forbidding certain types of speech simply does not work. It just becomes a part of a social and political underworld. Trump’s election didn’t make us more racist. It just allowed people to say out loud what they had always been thinking. In a way it’s good to finally know where people stand.