Monday, April 23, 2007

The Don Imus - Duke Lacrosse Connection

(Note: I had orginally planned to post this entry early last week, but delayed due to the Virginia Tech tragedy.- DB)

During the week following Easter two distinct but (in my mind) related announcements were made: CBS announced that Don Imus would no longer be aired on their radio stations and the Attorney General of North Carolina announced that rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players had been dropped. A great deal was made of the Imus case and its relationship to other “shock jock” radio hosts, as well as rappers and liberal commentators who have made equally offensive statements and yet are still on the air. At the same time, the CBS show “60 Minutes” aired extensive interviews with three Duke lacrosse players. However, to my knowledge no commentators noted the serendipitous connection between these two events.

A cynic might say, “Well the white guys came out even. They won one and they lost one.” I think it goes deeper than that. Like many people, I was glad to see Don Imus taken off the air, and I could not help but notice the irony that Don Imus is only one among many commentators who engage in various forms of destructive and degrading speech. One can only wonder how quick MSNBC and CBS would have been to fire Imus if the sponsors had continued to back him. But here is the connection I see to the Duke case: Imus was fired for his sexist and racist remarks and the Duke players got in trouble with the law because they were engaging in sexist and racist behavior.

As a Duke University alum, I closely followed the Duke lacrosse case. Throughout the last year, to my knowledge neither the players nor their parents have publicly commented on the fact that the alleged rape occurred at a party where a bunch of well-to-do white college guys hired a African-American stripper to “perform” at their drunken party. The fact that there was a party and that the young woman was hired to come there has never been disputed. The players and their parents, so intent on proving their innocence, failed to note that there never would have been a rape case if there hadn’t been a party in the first place. These guys may have been victims of politically motivated district attorney, but they were also eager participants in behavior that clearly demeaned and degraded others. As much as they talked about the difficulty of “rebuilding their lives,” they have come out relatively unscathed. One of them is already working on Wall Street, [and the other two are playing lacrosse at other colleges]*. Please forgive me, if the tears aren’t flowing.

*[NOTE: I was in error when I stated the other two players were currently playing lacrosse at other colleges. As the one comment-er said, they have not done so yet. Duke has offered to allow them to return, but they will probably go elsewhere. In all likelihood next year they will be playing for other schools. I stand corrected. D.B.]

After Don Imus was fired, the president of CBS said that the media giant had to “change the culture” that would allow such statements to occur. The culture issue goes much deeper than a few degrading words. The culture issue goes to the fact that the media will use and abuse others when it suits their purpose or makes them money. The culture issue looks at the way the rich can exploit the poor and come away unscathed (What if a black lacrosse team had hired a white stripper; would anyone have cared if players had been unfairly charged?). The culture issue reveals that there are different sets of rules for those who have access to money, power and high priced lawyers, and those who do not.

I for one, am sick of the hypocrisy, and will do what I can (as a well-to-do white guy from Duke) to highlight the fact that racism, sexism and just general human meanness is immoral, unethical and intolerable in any form.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prayer for the folks at Virginia Tech

Words can not express the sadness I feel for the victims of the shooting rampage that occurred at Virginia Tech on April 16. As a parent of three daughters, I can only think that it could just as easily been one of them. I imagine it will be years before some of the survivors and the victims' families can put this in perspective.I don't know the shooter's name, but his family must be in deep pain as well.

What irks me is the attempt of the media to find someone to blame. Was the school "secure enough?" Did the the shooter's teachers pick up on some trouble in the his life? Did the student's peers notice something was a bit off with the shooter? And why didn't they go to authorities? It is as if in our search for answers, we have to find someone to blame.

Random violence this can not be predicted nor controlled. At the risk of appearing to be fatalistic or overly spiritual, this is the essence of sin. Sin in its most vile expression twists and distorts a personality to perform inhuman acts. Now by bringing up sin, it may appear that I am blaming the shooter, and perhaps I am. But he too may have been a victim of sin's perverted force. He obviously was very troubled young man, and perhaps the victim of some destructive words or actions. When I speak of sin, I speak of that force within human beings and at large in the world, that pulls us in directions away from the way God created us. We were created to reflect God's goodness and love, not destroy other human beings.

Violence of all kinds is and expression of sin, but random violence makes us aware of just how pervasive and pernicious sin can be. One thing we saw and learned from the Nickel Mines tragedy last fall, was the power of a spiritual community to find comfort in God's presence through each other. Moreover, we saw the power of a God-based community to find the resources to forgive, rebuild and move ahead. Now one can rightly assume that in the families of the Nickel Mines victims, there is deep sense of grief and loss that will take years to heal. But they claimed the comfort of God to be real in their lives through their faith in God.

In the face of the VT crisis, we must be called to prayer. While I am not a deeply prayerful person, I do believe that when we pray, we tap into a reservoir of love, peace, and comfort that in the words of the apostle Paul, "surpasses all understanding." In the face of such spiritual forces, I am drawn to prayer, not as a sign of helplessness, but as a call to draw from the wells of God's spirit to face the challenges ahead. I pray for the folks of Virginia Tech. God draw near to them in their time of need, and help them to find solace and strength in the days ahead. And may this tragedy remind us that our work with God in ending violence has only begun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Hidden Trauma of War

Dear Friends,

I recently was sent this article from the Quaker Economist. It is a personal letter outlining the effects of Post Tramautic Stress Disroder on a society at war. What is particularly poignant is the author's analysis of coded PTSD talk which continues the cycle of war.

I share it with you as yet another reason this war needs to end.

Go to

Drick Boyd

Monday, April 09, 2007

Breaking Ranks

Have you noticed the mantra that being uttered by all parties in the debate about U.S. military involvement in the Middle East? George W. Bush uses it. Nancy Pelosi uses it. So do all the presidential hopefuls from John McCain and Rudy Guiliani to Hillary, Barack, and John Edwards. And when Rosie O’Donnell spoke in favor a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq on her show, “The View,” one of her critics commented that if she wanted to have any credibility with the American people she better use this mantra. What is this sacred cow, this holy utterance, this inviolable commitment to which all true blue Americans must submit (especially if they are politicians or celebrities)? It is those magic words “support the troops.” You can be for or against withdrawal, you can be Democrat, Republican or Independent, you can be politician or celebrity; none of those things matter --- the one thing you must do is “support the troops.”

So it is with trepidation that I write the words: I don’t support the troops. I have not supported the reasons the troops are over in Iraq from the beginning. From the beginning the cloak of democracy and freedom were placed over the real motivation, which was control of the oil fields and the possibility of huge profits for Halliburton, Exxon and other mega-corporations (who by the way were doing quite well as a result of this effort). I don’t support the strategy that says that we can impose democracy on a people whose culture and religious sensibilities are largely undemocratic. I don’t buy the line that somehow by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, these soldiers are “protecting my freedom.” I don’t support the notion that by seeking to get the terrorist there, that we somehow will stop the possibility of their bombing us here. I don’t support the practices of the military recruiters who lure unwitting young people with the myths of a GI bill- supported education, and vocational training while “serving your country.” Nor do I support the decision that those young people make to join the military no matter how misguided or deprived they are in their present situations.

Now that is not to say I wish the soldiers ill. Nor does it mean that I don’t care if they come back alive; I would much rather they come back whole rather than physically or psychologically maimed or in a body bag. Of course I care. Every time I see the young face of another soldier killed in the line of combat, I grieve. However, I can’t say I “support” why they died, nor do I support the decision of their comrades to keep up the fight. Nor, can I buy the line that they “died to preserve our freedom.” They didn’t die for me; I didn’t support their going in the first place. To me their deaths are a waste in a misguided effort led by duplicitous leaders.

The more we talk about “supporting the troops” but not the war, the more we contribute to the doublespeak that confuses and confounds efforts to find a way to peace in that area. Military solutions are not in the cards, and especially military solutions involving the United States. Our presence in the region is a lightening rod for violence and an embarrassment to other countries who might step up and have a hand in bringing some order to Iraq. We went in without global or regional support and that has not changed. George W. thought we could bully our way to democracy and peace, and it has become a quagmire and a disaster. The sooner we get our troops out of there, the better the chances will be for some sort of order to be restored. There are no guarantees, but there is no way as long as the U.S. is there that peace will ever be attained. Supporting the troops’ efforts to do whatever they are doing is a failed policy.

So, I am breaking ranks: I don’t support the troops. I am saying the emperor has no clothes. I am saying supporting this war at any level by “supporting the troops” only contributes to the travesties that have already occurred. Call me crazy, unpatriotic, ungrateful, uninformed, uncaring or whatever negative appellation you can find. I am not contributing the madness any more – I don’t support the troops.