"Mom, he is instigating!"
Nine years old. I've already raced through the collected works of Twain and Shakespeare, but I'm stuck in the backseat of my mom's Jeep, no air conditioning, zooming past walnut orchards and rice fields, a barricade of pillows between me and my brother. He is poking me with a finger, a hanger, anything he can find. When I scoot further away, he stares at me, making faces, daring me to react.
My mother is pragmatic. "Don't pay him any attention. He'll get bored sooner or later and leave you alone."
I spent my childhood perfecting the art of being aloof. I learned to deflect cruel names aimed at my insecurities with a serene smile and an upturned nose. I would float away into the clouds, thinking about a piece of music or dance choreography.
Oh, I'm good at ignoring.
But you, sir, are instigating. I'm not nine years old anymore, my patience is much shorter, and as much as my mom attempted to raise me to let things go, I don't. I won't. I am full of opinions and while I will not write them on a picketing sign and parade in front of your house, I will not sit idly, silently by as you dare others to disagree.
You scream words like "babykiller", "terrorist". You walk a tightrope of bigotry and hate, convincing yourself that your crusade is righteous. Your anger has nothing to do with who he is and everything to do with the fact that your guys didn’t win. “Pro-life” is a term behind which you cache yourself, spouting outdated statistics and feebly attempting to play on the collective pathos. TWO MILLIONS BABIES A YEAR! you cry. TWO MILLION INNOCENTS! STOP THE BABYKILLERS! Let’s do that, sir. Let’s go after every single politician that has allowed abortion to happen. Every single physician. Every nurse. Every heartless, monstrous woman that has deliberately murdered her unborn child. Let’s put all their names on a list. Ostracize them. Refuse them work, food, shelter. Let's refuse them respect, because that seems to be your favorite game. We will treat each one as if they were beasts, savages. Because the shame and grief that she felt after that terminated pregnancy was simply not enough. She needs you, sir, to remind her of that pain, those tears, the emptiness in the center of her body. She needs you to never allow her to forget the sorrow of that day. Because obviously you know better than she does. You were in that room, cold, exposed, surrounded by strangers. You, sir, were the one who walked in with a life inside of you and walked out hollow and hurting.
I have been there. Three hours in the waiting room at Planned Parenthood, holding my best friend's hand as she waited for the results to a pregnancy test she didn't think she would have to take. I saw those girls, years younger than myself, waltz in and out of the room, asking for contraceptives. I was witness to their hollow eyes and the bodies that others used and threw away. I grew up with these girls, spent my afternoons walking home with them. My heart breaks for each one of them, for the decisions each has made. Abortion is a travesty. I understand that. But without legalized abortion, these young women would be sneaking in back doors, placing their lives in the hands of butchers without medical degrees. How many of them would die of hemorrhages? Infections? How many would be sterile? I know these girls and I know that abortion is not something they take lightly. I will stand with them and for them. It is my responsibility to give grace, not judgment. It is my responsibility to show these girls love, not to force them to follow the rules of a God who they do not claim as their own. Put me on your abortion blacklist too, because for all you know, I’m an accessory to murder in the first degree.
ter-ror-rist = a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities
I'll admit that most of my heroes are radicals. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Teresa. Jesus Christ himself was a radical. These people were crazy. They lived their lives in ways that just didn't make sense. Radicals...what were they thinking? They lived lives that were wholly focused on people other than themselves. They did not really possess anything, giving everything they owned to a greater cause. They were mocked, prosecuted, assassinated. They were radicals.
I've seen terrorism. I've seen it on the news. Less than a day ago, a 13-year-old girl in Iraq became the youngest suicide bomber in this war. Women are kidnapped, raped, and killed in Juarez; drug dealers gain all the power as people are too afraid to leave their houses. Law enforcement officers have begun to refer to street gangs as terrorists. A terrorist is a person who uses fear to manipulate others. By that definition, the United States media is the biggest source of terrorism that I encounter every day. I am told that it is not safe to travel, not safe to drive, not safe to walk by myself, not safe to live by myself, not safe to eat foods that are not organic, not safe to use a cell phone. Terrorism's greatest source of power is that which you hand over by allowing someone else's scare tactics to control your life.
Religion is the ideal cover for terrorism. We've all done it. The Christians, the Muslims, the Jews. Lest we forget, let's talk about some of the mistakes that we as Christians have made. The Crusades. St. Bartholomew's Massacre, which occurred when ten to a hundred thousand French Protestants were killed by French Catholics; I can recite that one for you in French and in English. The Pilgrims bringing smallpox to Plymouth Colony and taking land that rightly belonged to the Native Americans; that's a pretty ingenious start to biological warfare. Around the turn of the 20th century, white Protestants in the South used all sorts of terrorism (lynching, murder, beating, tar-and-feathering) in order to defeat black Christians, Mormons, Jews, and Catholics. And currently, the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda is attempting to replace their country's constitution with the Ten Commandments, which has lead to the slaughter of more than ten thousand people. There are an estimated 2 million missing persons and most children in the country have been kidnapped to work as child soldiers or sex slaves.
Terrorism and terrorists are very real. But the things of which you speak are not terrorism.
You fight the battles of “the real American”. You insinuate that I have no love for my country. I am an American citizen, born and raised on American soil to American parents; you don't get much more American than that, although I understand your concerns. My America might look a little different than what you consider America to be. You have never heard its music, smelled its cooking, been fluent in its bilingual dialect. You fail to realize that both my grandfathers fought for this country, and will continue to fight the demons of bloody pasts until their warriors’ hearts stop beating. You do not know that as the National Anthem played before every Oakland A’s baseball game, my father would lean over and whisper these words into my ear: “We are doing this to celebrate our freedom. In other countries, people are not as free as us. You should be thankful every day for your freedom.” You did not cry my hot, angry tears as I sat in the back of my high school theater, hearing the report that we bombed Baghdad, loving my country even as I disagreed with our actions, and knowing exactly who would go off to fight after we graduated. You have not passed sleepless nights with me as I prayed for the boys I grew up with who are fighting in someone else's war. You have not been awoken by phone calls in the middle of the night. They call just to say hello, just to hear a friendly voice, just to make sure that someone remembers that they are still fighting. I see their faces when they come home. I knew them as little boys with round cheeks and mischievious eyes. I love them and I am thankful for the sacrifices which are so painfully visible. Their eyes are cold now and when we laugh, it's not the same.
You look at my passport and infer that I am a socialist, an expatriate hypnotized by travel in radical foreign nations. If I were a socialist, I would renounce my American citizenship and move to a socialist country. You, sir, have not traveled with me. You have not spent six months in a foreign city, defending your country in a foreign tongue while trying to make foreign friends. You form grandiose plans of leaving the country and moving somewhere else. You speak no language other than English. You desire to move somewhere less liberal, more moral. Good luck, sir, but here’s my warning: they won’t want you. They will judge you based on your illiteracy, your appearance, your belief system. For the first time in your life, you will experience the shame of hearing, “Learn our language or go back where you belong!"
You imply that because I think and vote differently than you, I love the Lord my God less than you do. You say that I am misstaken, unaware of what the Bible states. That is simply false. I have read, and studied, and lived the Word of God. I serve a God who is just and loving and jealous and powerful and holy. I know Him, who He is and who He is not. And for you, sir, I only have one question: How many sinners have you loved today? San Francisco is a city with which I am familiar. When I picture Jesus, it's there that I see him. Walking through the Castro and preaching the Gospel to people you would not lower your eyes to look at. He would spend His nights cradling a heroin addict who shivers, sweats, and vomits in a rehab facility as she tries to get clean for the fourteenth time.
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of who I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15