The domestic terrorism deployed on peaceful protesters this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia resulted in the horrific and untimely death of a young woman, a white counter-terrorism activist. Heather Heyer’s death summonses us all to let our lives be a testimony of our faith as she bravely stood up for what she believed. Heather’s mom wants her death “to be a rallying cry for justice.” For me, Heather’s death turned me inward to the place of reckoning with the overwhelming indicia of proof that the 2016 election mantra: ‘Make America Great Again’ is nothing but dog whistle politics sounding the battle horn to Make America Hate Again. Walk with me for a moment.
The uprising in Charlottesville must be viewed in connection with other incidents of similar import. What quickly comes to mind is the massacre of 9 worshippers at the Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. Dillon Storm Roof is one in a cadre of foot soldiers postured to heed the call on the front line of the battlefield for white supremacy. His stated purpose was to “start a race war.” As I viewed the news clips of hand-to-hand combat over and over again this weekend, that war, equipped with homemade shields and weapons, has now escalated from the sanctuary to the street. It is not a stretch to equate the fear tactics of torch bearing neo-Nazis surrounding the church where the Reverend Traci Blackmon and others knelt in prayer to the machinations of the “Storm” as he sat among the Bible believing Christians assembled at Mother Emmanuel to delve deeper into the meaning of their Christian witness. Those machinations have far-reaching implications. They go so deep it made me think of the song by the Baha Men “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
In the face of what appears to be organized crime redolent of a time in our nation’s history where racial minorities were the constant target of hate-filled acts of violence, this virulent and conspiratorial uptick of white supremacy extends to the very foundation of our democracy. For instance, it is not happenstance that in several states there are recently ratified provisions decriminalizing and immunizing the drivers who hit protesters with a vehicle. There is even talk of such a provision being introduced in Congress to cover all 50 states. Heather’s killer, had he acted in North Carolina, North Dakota, or Tennessee might have escaped prosecution. This wreaks of organized crime where state actors sanction, support and signal these attacks. Wearing baseball caps with the slogan make American great again, followers of David Duke vowed to carry out the President’s promise. I am clear as to who let the dogs out. I am equally clear as to my public, theological response.
It is time for a counter-narrative to take center stage in American politics, legislative agendas both domestic and foreign, and in the lives of the faithful. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; but, they are mighty! It is time to mount up! Love trumps hate every time.