Today, a friend of mine posted this Facebook exchange.
(I edited the names because I’m not interested in getting any of these people trolled – even the one who deserves it.)
Maneesh, as many may have surmised, is an American of Indian descent.
Sadly, this kind of response is common to those of us Americans with brown faces and non-European surnames. Ask me how I know.
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Got it mostly when I tried to tell conservatives that the Luos of Kenya–my tribe and Obama’s alleged tribe–were 90% Christian and that the tribe was not an Arab tribe, nor a “slaver tribe” of all the rest of the tribes in the region; that was the prevalent Bravo Sierra. Also, I received the Muslim-apologist treatment when I tried to tell people that Kenya’s 2008 Civil Conflict was not some sort of epic battle between Christianity and Islam, but a mundane tribal war. These notions have been the Fake News of nearly a decade.
Funny, none of the people who pontificated as Kenya experts back then give a rat’s furry backside about the country now.
I’ve had a long time to ponder the negative reactions of the very few of my fellow Americans to my name and my heritage. Most of it is fear of Islam. Justifiable, but people need to get a grip and stop pushing away fellow Americans who are allies and whose “funny names” are not an indication of their religious allegiance.
And here’s a notion that I don’t think I’ve ever put on screen. An online acquaintance who, quite correctly thinks that accusations of racism are overblown, wondered a few years ago which, if any, aspects of American slavery still affect Americans who are black in this century. I didn’t get the chance to answer then, but I’ll answer now: most black Americans have surnames of European origin. It’s so nearly universal that we don’t notice it anymore, not even me. Therefore, when some black chick named Ochieng pops up, it’s a curiosity and, sometimes it instills unconscious fear in those who are already afraid. Think this through.
All I know is that the Spirits of fear, violence, and tribalism are on the upswing in our country. I, however, think it’s up to those of us who refuse to let those spirits master us to speak up, to understand, and, most of all, to pray without ceasing to the Lord of Hosts.
The weeds of fear are the favored crop of any terrorist.
Two years after that bit of unpleasantness in New York City, in Washington, DC, and in the Pennsylvania countryside, I wrote this:
Terrorists commit their acts not for the benefit of the dead, but for those who remain alive. “Look at what we’ll do to you and yours,” they say, “if you don’t do what we want you to do.” They revel in our horror. They rejoice in the sorrow of the families who will never bury the atomized [or beheaded] bodies of their loved ones. They say, “yeah, we did it and we’ll do it to you unless you….submit.”
Does anyone remember the story of Emmett Till? Several years before I was born, Till, fourteen-years-old, was the victim of another set of terrorists. This young black man, not knowing or not caring about the ways of the South of that period, was murdered for allegedly making an indecent remark to a white woman. He disappeared and, days later, his body, beaten and shot, was found in a river. The men who were tried for his murder were acquitted. Emmett’s murder wasn’t an isolated case of a man supposedly defending the honor of his wife. As we know, all over the South, black men were being murdered for “stepping out of their place,” whether they actually had stepped out of their “place” or not.
Those who committed these crimes did so not only for “revenge” on the dead, but to send a message to and strike fear in the living. That’s what made it terrorism. Sound familiar?
In 2001 (and 1968 and 1979 and 1983 and 1988 and 1993 and 1998 and 2003 [added: and in 2014] and every year in between), the players are different from that of 1955, but the message is the same: do what we want or this will happen to you or to those whom you love. In this case, it is “worship in the way we worship; bow five times a day to Mecca or else.”
I mention the Till case not to compare the two sets of terrorists, per se, but to compare the dissimilar reactions of the victims’ loved ones. Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, had an open-casket funeral for her son. […]
[Till’s] head–monstrous from the beating, the bullet and the decomposition–contrasted against the normalcy of the casket and the suit that Mrs. Till had picked out for the body. It gave the picture that much more ugliness: your worst nightmare in banal black and white.
But Mamie Till’s steely words about the open-casket decision were electrifying: “I want the world to see what they did to my son.”
Well, the “world” did see and, though there was much more sorrow to be had–as it is with any major upheaval of a society–things changed. Some of us even think that things have changed for the better…such home-grown types of terrorists still exist, but when caught, they usually sit on death row rather sit at home having beers with their friends. We can send our message as well.
Keep sowing, jihadis. Most of us are good at pulling up weeds–and at cleaning metal.
I always found the term “fear-monger” to be a tell about the person using it.
A person who mongers is, using the traditional definition, a dealer or a trader who sells a finite set of commodities. The second connotation goes this way:
[the promotion of] a specified activity, situation, or feeling, especially one that is undesirable or discreditable.
Many recall that Senator John McCain (R-AZ), during his 2008 campaign for the presidency, (in)famously stated the following at a townhall meeting:
I want to be president of the United States, and I don’t want Obama to be. But I have to tell you, he is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared [of] as President of the United States.
Six years, many violations of the US Constitution, wars, pestilence and the rumors thereof later, we find that Senator McCain was…right.
The intentional actions of the Obama Administration pose grave threats to our personal survival and our survival as a nation–but we don’t have to be afraid of them. By that, I mean that we don’t have be paralyzed by fear–the overwhelming sense that there is nothing that we can do to thwart our destruction.
A counter-example: many believe–and I am among this number–that members of our legislative and judicial branches are afraid to take meaningful steps to rein in the executive branch. Afraid of what? Only they know for certain. But, assuming the belief is correct, that unnamed fear has immobilized the other two branches. And, as a result, this country has suffered outrage after outrage.
So, Senator McCain was correct, though probably not in the manner he intended.
Back to fear mongering, or the allegation thereof. When you try to warn someone of a reasonably-calculated possible danger and that person calls you a fear-monger, she does it in order avoid acknowledging her own fear. Acknowledging fear is the first step in getting past it and acting decisively in the face of it, armed with the truth–for starters. Rather than do that very tough work, such a person would prefer that you shut up. But, the truth is that they are buying what you are not selling. We know who the salesman is.
From that, we discover that failing to do what’s right because of the fear of subsequent consequences is a form of sloth. That God hates cowards is no mystery.
Originally posted here on May 12, 2010; slightly updated and re-edited. This story is never out of season.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
(Acts 2:17-18; KJV)
Some time ago, I had a dream.
Before I explain what type of dream it was, I should mention that my dreams are very vivid—almost like being awake; like short visits to worlds yet unexplored. Sometimes, I can remember them immediately upon waking, but they will usually be forgotten if I fail to write them down. (As an aside, I think that the ability to remember one’s dreams goes hand-in-hand with having a well-developed imagination—something essential to being a novelist.)
My subconscious will even, on occasion, incorporate sounds from the waking world and build a dream around it if the sound isn’t loud and/or piercing enough to disrupt my sleep. Such was the case several years ago when former Israeli Defense Minister Dan Gillerman’s melodious, accented baritone memorably penetrated my dreams as it wafted from my television. In that dream, the voice seemed to be emanating from the throat of the man whom I loved at the time; he seemed to pontificate about a war with Gaza.
However, for the dream mentioned at the beginning, there was never any need to write the details, and, whenever I reconsider it, it always looms large and has capital letters: The Dream.
At first, The Dream was a nightmare—one of the few nightmares in my fifty-plus years. (Interestingly enough, I only began having nightmares in the last few years—since I began walking closer to God.) I couldn’t see anything at first; I could only feel—and the feeling in question was pure terror. I’ve never come close to being that afraid when awake and I hope that I never do.
There was something–a living thing—in the room with me. What was it? Evil itself is the only way to describe this entity.
I lay on a floor, curled up in a ball like a potato bug and unable to move. My eyes—my dream-eyes—were slammed shut for fear of seeing the thing. It seemed to menace my back, crackling the skin of it. In the manner which dreams unfold, I could “see” chunks of flesh fall from my back; then it would reintegrate and the process would start again.
I wanted to uncurl and turn to face the being, but fear stopped me. I could feel my chest heaving; it seemed as though the mere sight of the Thing of Evil would stop my heart forever.
Then I cried out to God and He answered, reminding me that He had not given me the spirit of fear; that this particular emotion had a different source. This reassurance seemed to slow my breath and un-paralyze my body. I stood up and opened my eyes, but I still wasn’t quite able to face the Creature.
“Stretch out your arms,” God said. I did so and opened my right hand. In it was a sword or a handgun (they seemed interchangeable) and, as is so in myth and in fantasy, my weapon had a given name.
Weeks later, I was sitting in church and very much awake.
My pastor–learned in the languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek—was expounding on the two Greek terms for “word of God.” One is a term with which most English-speakers are familiar—logos. The other, however, is one I had heard before but had no idea what it meant until my pastor began to expound upon it: rhema[i].
The difference? People far more theologically learned than I are still discussing it, but the difference seems to be in scope. A rhema is more of a short aphorism, rather than a long sermon or the Word in its entirety, and it is intended to counter the Adversary quickly when he’s trying to induce doubt and/or fear. For example, Jesus Christ used a quick succession of rhema on Satan when the latter tried to induce doubt about God the Father.
In short, when you hear preachers talk about “a word from God,” most of the time they are talking about a rhema.
“What does this have to do with your dream,” I hear you ask. My mouth literally dropped open when my pastor mentioned the other definition of rhema….
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