Trinity United Church of Christ; Pastor Wright Homilies and Hope



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 1

Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text.  Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

~ Barack Obama [Senator and Potential President] March 18, 2008

When we are separate, our experience is never equal.  African-Americans mingle among the many Anglos in this country.  However, individuals with dark-complexions do not fully unite or fit into a society that segregates by color.  While Americans have forcibly progressed beyond the laws that allowed for racial discrimination, the bias and bigotry that filled the hearts of many citizens in the United States for centuries still thrives.  While we muse, we love thy neighbor, we react to those whose race is not our own.

Americans claim they are Christian, inclusive.  Indeed, we are a Judeo-Christian nation.  Yet, Jews are still scorned in America, as are people of any color that is other than a pinkish white.  Amongst Caucasians, the habit of hate has been passed on for generations.  Yet, when those whose skin is pale, hear the words of a Black man, a Reverend, Jeremiah Wright, who has been wounded by racism for all the years of his life, speak of his distress, they react as though they had never uttered a racial epithet in their lives.

The most respected Americans, white in color proclaim, “I have never heard such vile derisive language in an Anglo church.”  “No preacher, pastor, priest, or rabbi would ever express him or herself in such a loathsome manner.”  Shocked Caucasians inquire as if to invite a shared criticism, “Is this what Black people believe?”  If reasons are presented for such resentment, the response from self-righteous lovers of G-d and man is, “African-Americans are bigoted!”  “How dare they.”  The pink persons declare, “In the House of the Lord only words of love are spoken, at least that is the way it is in white churches, temples, and synagogues.”

However, this may not be the case.  Hate is harbored on every avenue in America, even in places of worship.  As Barack Obama dared to remind us, on Sundays African-Americans and Anglos who reside in the United States are perhaps more divided than they are on any other day.  The pale persons pray with those whose skin tone is similar to their own.  When we look at only the surface, all whites may appear equal; and they are in the eyes of the Almighty.  Yet, as humans gaze upon each other, they see differences.

A white man or woman, whose gender preference is unlike those of the self-ordained “absolved of all “sins” congregation may experience discrimination even in death.

Church learns vet was gay, cancels memorial

Texas congregation acted out of principle, not malice, pastor says

Associated Press.  MSNBC

August 11, 2007

Arlington, Texas – A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright.  But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face.  It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”‘ she said Friday. . .

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service – not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press.  “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it – yes, we would have declined then.  It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

Love rears its ugly head in many odd ways.  Fondness, in the form of fury and foment, is found on film throughout cyberspace.  As the “average” American bears witness, people, pale in color, have become a community of contempt.  Condescension is what appears in the Judeo-Christian churches throughout the land of the free.  Americans, be they  Jewish, Mormon, Protestant or Christian are calm when they contemplate the G-d and the all that he creates.  People are polite in public; however, when they are in the comfort of their homes they express what they claim is never stated.  The proper and pink teach their progeny to believe as they do.

The Year In Hate, 2005

A 5% annual increase in hate groups in 2005 caps a remarkable rise of 33% over the five-year period that began in 2000.

By Mark Potok

Intelligence Report

Southern Poverty Law

Spring 2006

Fueled by belligerent tactics and publicity stunts, the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose from 762 in 2004 to 803 last year, capping an increase of fully 33% over the five years since 2000.

The expansion of hate groups last year, documented by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, seemed to be helped along by aggressive maneuvers that landed them on front pages and in national news broadcasts.  The National Socialist Movement, for instance, repeatedly made national news with provocative attempts to march through black, inner-city neighborhoods.  Other groups rallied with increasing fervor and frequency, and even undertook sure-to-infuriate campaigns like “Operation Schoolyard,” an attempt in the 2004-2005 school year to distribute 100,000 free racist music CDs to schoolchildren . . .  A growing Internet presence also helped groups’ propaganda to flourish; there were 524 hate sites counted in 2005, up 12% from 468 in 2004.

Yes, whites individuals and groups do indoctrinate their young.  The practice amid the pink population is as odious as they believe it is among African-Americans.  Whites are as blackened by bigotry as their brethren may be.  

Sadly, too frequently when we look upon another we see only what appears on the surface.  Just as the oppressed of one color or creed voices words that may be defined as dishonorable, so too do those in the supposed superior sect.  Each of us errors.  We are all emotional beings, complex and never viewed completely.  New York Times Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, addressed this truth in his recent editorial, Obama and Race.  The articulate author writes of what goes on within the walls of Trintiy United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois.

Many well-meaning Americans perceive Mr. Wright as fundamentally a hate-monger who preaches antagonism toward whites.  But those who know his church say that is an unrecognizable caricature: He is a complex figure and sometimes a reckless speaker, but one of his central messages is not anti-white hostility but black self-reliance.

“The big thing for Wright is hope,” said Martin Marty, one of America’s foremost theologians, who has known the Rev. Wright for 35 years and attended many of his services. “You hear ‘hope, hope, hope.’ Lots of ordinary people are there, and they’re there not to blast the whites. They’re there to get hope.”

Professor Marty said that as a white person, he sticks out in the largely black congregation but is always greeted with warmth and hospitality. “It’s not anti-white,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s white who walks out of there not feeling affirmed.”

Mr. Wright has indeed made some outrageous statements. But he should be judged as well by his actions – including a vigorous effort to address poverty, ill health, injustice and AIDS in his ministry. Mr. Wright has been frightfully wrong on many topics, but he was right on poverty, civil rights and compassion for AIDS victims.

What should draw much more scrutiny in this campaign than any pastor’s sermons is the candidates’ positions on education, health care and poverty – and their ability to put those policies in place. Cutting off health care benefits for low-income children strikes me as much more offensive than any inflammatory sermon.

Indeed, what is an affront to a person affected by a policy or practice is barely observable to one who will never realize how a political promise or lack thereof can destroy the life of those they love.  When in an impoverished community people depend on the kindness of a culture such as the society Thomas Paine described, one in which the commonweal was more important than the needs of any individual.  The disenfranchised rely on the good will of people who believe in the Lord, practice as Jesus preached, “Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Yet, inside and outside of a religious house, mere mortal man fails to adhere to the principles preached from the pulpit.  We need only remember the plight of a sweet young child, a twelve year old, Deamonte Driver who died of a toothache Sunday, February 25, 2007.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find.

If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died.

Few in a white American world can imagine such a situation.  Certainly, a Caucasian churchgoer does not subscribe to the belief a child must suffer.  No clergy would caste a little one to the wolves or ask them to endure the burden of a national budget disagreement.  An ordained Minister, Reverend, Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi, a Shaman would not will a poverty-stricken parent, people within an impoverished community, or those not yet empowered, to care for a child without adequate means to assist the young person.  That is unless the religious leader is part of the “Fellowship” or “Family,” who congregates in Washington District of Columbia or other Capitols throughout the globe.

The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

This group of world leaders, the affluent and comfortable from Congress to the Cabinet, from the White House to the wondrous world of power elite, accepts as part of their mission, that those whose pigmentation is darker, or persons deemed to be of lesser value may be left to die when they no longer serve the “masters.”  This theological order differs from some of the other organized religion.

The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the “meek.” They believe that, in mass societies, it’s only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God’s “dominion” on earth.  Insofar as the Family has a consistent philosophy, it’s all about power — cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or “cells.”  “We work with power where we can,” Doug Coe [Fellowship leader] has said, and “build new power where we can’t.”

 

African-Americans rarely and barely have authority equal to those of Anglos in this nation.  “Affirmative Action,” a policy established to appease those embarrassed by the actions of their ancestors, is granted and taken away.  Caucasians complain of “reverse racism,” for few can comprehend.

[B]lacks have not simply been treated unfairly; they have been subjected first to decades of slavery, and then to decades of second-class citizenship, widespread legalized discrimination, economic persecution, educational deprivation, and cultural stigmatization. They have been bought, sold, killed, beaten, raped, excluded, exploited, shamed, and scorned for a very long time.  The word “unfair” is hardly an adequate description of their experience, and the belated gift of “fairness” in the form of a resolution no longer to discriminate against them legally is hardly an adequate remedy for the deep disadvantages that the prior discrimination has produced. When the deck is stacked against you in more ways than you can even count, it is small consolation to hear that you are now free to enter the game and take your chances.

Chances are opportunities will be scant and tentative at that.  Former Congresswoman and Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro reminds us of this.  For the Clinton cohort, and a former member of the Clinton Finance Committee, Barack Obama, and perhaps all Black Americans are “lucky” to be where they are today.  For Ferraro, another Anglo American who evidently cannot connect to the experience of being poor or purplish-brown in hue, being Black in this country is apparently an advantage.  Perchance, it is a privilege to suffer at the hands of those in power, the people who do not wish to speak of their work or worship.  We cannot know.  For unlike the scenes seen in volumes of video in the worldwide web or in news network libraries, there are no recordings of what occurs in “Fellowship” [Family] meetings.  The “cells” remain cloistered, just as the rich do.

[T]he prayer groups have become cherished sanctuaries for their members-providing respite, however brief, from the cacophony of political Washington. Speaking about a group is strongly discouraged, and what transpires at meetings is strictly off the record.

No one will know if these elite powerbrokers express their racial hatred aloud.  One can only determine what is true through the policies these persons enact.  They may say they prayer for equality; however, the laws introduced and passed frequently, further disenfranchise the poor and people of color.

There is much evidence, anecdotal as the Ferraro affair may be, and research analysis, to suggest Caucasians in this country find it difficult to relate to the circumstances of those whose skin is a darker color.  The predicament of people whose skin gleams a brownish-purplish hue is incomprehensible to those who do not suffer from the effects of racism.

A Jew can pass amongst gentiles.  An Asian can climb, albeit inch-by-inch.  Hispanics are hindered in their assent; yet, not in the way a Black man or woman is. An African-American is never fully free from the stereotypes.  On screen dramas, depict African-Americans as villains.  The nightly news amplifies this message.  The public presumes if a crime is committed, certainly the lawbreaker will be Black.  

Our language leads us to believe black is bad.  White is good.  From childhood on Americans are indoctrinated.  Slavery may have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation; however, African-Americans remained incarcerated in caricatures.

From the introduction of animated film in the early 1900s to the 1950s, ethnic humor was a staple of American-made cartoons. Yet, as Christopher Lehman shows in this revealing study, the depiction of African Americans in particular became so inextricably linked to the cartoon medium as to influence its evolution through those five decades. He argues that what is in many ways most distinctive about American animation reflects white animators’ visual interpretations of African American cultural expression.

The first American animators drew on popular black representations, many of which were caricatures rooted in the culture of southern slavery. During the 1920s, the advent of the sound-synchronized cartoon inspired animators to blend antebellum-era black stereotypes with the modern black cultural expressions of jazz musicians and Hollywood actors. When the film industry set out to desexualize movies through the imposition of the Hays Code in the early 1930s, it regulated the portrayal of African Americans largely by segregating black characters from others, especially white females. At the same time, animators found new ways to exploit the popularity of African American culture by creating animal characters like Bugs Bunny who exhibited characteristics associated with African Americans without being identifiably black.

By the 1950s, protests from civil rights activists and the growing popularity of white cartoon characters led animators away from much of the black representation on which they had built the medium.  Even so, animated films today continue to portray African American characters and culture, and not necessarily in a favorable light.

Perhaps, the portrayals burned into our brains, when we were toddlers, those heard in church, in homes, in movie theatres, and on televisions, helps to explain why Anglo Americans cannot imagine what it like to be Black in America.  Few Caucasians have experienced the pain of prejudice.  Pinkish people cannot comprehend what it feels like to consistently be a victim of avoidance.  An Anglo does not think that their mere appearance might threaten another.  White people walk down the street without a care.  No one crosses the boulevard in order to steer clear of them as happens frequently to a Black man or woman approaching from the other direction.

Anglos do not know what it feels like to be shunned, snubbed, or scorned because your skin is dark.  Caucasians cannot pretend to know how what some say is a tease is truly a threat.  When Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman smiled and suggested today’s young players should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley,” African-Americans did not laugh. A noose in the neighborhood can cause ones’ blood to curdle.  A word as vile as n*gg*r, does not cut to the core of a white man or woman who has never lost a loved-one to brutal aggressions based only on race.  There is much the white world does not realize or rationalize as they sit in their ivory churches.

To whites, for example, it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people.

That may be an absurd view in white circles, but a 1990 survey found that 30 percent of African-Americans believed this was at least plausible.

“That’s a real standard belief,” noted Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political scientist at Princeton (and former member of Trinity church, when she lived in Chicago). “One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you’ve spent time in black communities, they are not shared by everyone, but they are pretty common beliefs.”

This thought is not merely a personal opinion, research documents the truth of this assessment.  White Americans don’t truly comprehend racial disparities in our country.  Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the a study titled, Whites Underestimate the Costs of Being Black, and Assistant Professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus states, “The costs of being black in our society are very well documented.”  “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”  Researcher Mazzocco avows, “white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family.” Overall, the total assets for an Anglo family are about five times greater than that of an African-American family.  The disparity seems a constant in American history.  The chasm has persisted for years.  Mazzocco said. . . .

“When white Americans find it within themselves to say ‘I must be compensated for a past injustice done to me’ but the same logic evaporates when the injustice concerns black Americans, they are staring straight at bias,” Banaji [co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University] said.

What is good for thou, is not tolerable for thee.  Hypocrisy is a theme we know all too well.  We witness it here in America.  We hear charlatan expressions in our daily lives.  Is this not the concern Caucasians present, when they criticize Reverend Wright?

Opportunely, those who protest too much forget the numerous groups who hate in the name of G-d, or the “Family” formed amongst the elite.  Nonetheless, pinkish people preach; white worshipers never speak words of woe, or wrath.  The Judeo-Christian clergy, and the congregation, at least when in church, do not speak badly of their brethren.  If only Jesus had known.  The Son of the Holy Father may not have felt a need to warn the hypocrites.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5 RSV

Perhaps, our best teachers, those who see most clearly, understand the complexity that is humankind.  Perchance, a parishioner hears what is truly said.  One with love in his or her heart does not hear the gospel as a reason for grief.  He, or she, the commoners within a congregation may understand the clergyman in a manner consistent with the whole being that stands before them each and every Sunday.  It seems Kennise M Herring, an “average” disciple of Jeremiah Wright lives the lessons of the Lord more fully than those who gather in gentler, kinder  churches.

I am a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and have been for 17 years.  Interestingly, I’ve never seen Barack in church, which may simply speak to the fact that there are 3 sermons and our family attends a different service than the Obama family.

I was in attendance in the sermon after 9/11 that has been circulated.  Ironically, I felt soothed following that sermon.  I certainly remembered upon viewing the clips the infamous God Damn America comments, but that is not what stood out for me in that service.  At the start of the service, Reverend Wright spoke poignantly about his fears as he was in New York on that fateful day.  He spoke about the tremendous pain he observed, the evil and horror of the event and of his personal realization that he may never get to tell all of us how much he loved us.  He spoke of realizing that his life with his family was not guaranteed and that he could not take anything for granted.  He made a commitment to tell us at each service that he loved us and I experienced his words-I love you-simply and freely offered as real and soothing.

Yes-he spoke about policy matters and clearly used strong language but at the time, neither I or my three children or my husband found it the salient part of the talk.  Despite the strong rhetoric, I left church feeling that “there is a balm in Gilead.”  Reverend Wright delivered the eulogy at my aunt’s funeral and it is not hyperbole to say that I was more moved by his words than I have ever been at a funeral.  He was warm, compassionate, empathic, and genuinely sad for as he said repeatedly about my aunt, “this was not ordinary parishioner, this was my friend.”

Reverend Wright frequently chided those of us too constricted to freely experience the passion often evident in the sanctuary and suggested that we were too educated to show our love for Jesus.  I, being one of the more reserved-ok-constricted ones simply smiled for I longed for the kind of intimate, passionate relationship with God that he seems to have cultivated with God.

In finishing, I have seen this man on too many occasions do too much that is good and meaningful.  He is imperfect-he will tell you that in a minute but I am certain in my core that he is doing God’s work and he loves God’s children even if he is disgusted by their behavior at times.

There are two Americas and the one I occupy is often invisible.  How I wish that the peek inside my world had offered a fuller portrait of this man and not the caricature.

Might the Anglo individuals who dwell in the more visible America, assess their own passion, principles, and preachers.  Might Caucasians consider the hypocrisy that lives within them and their clergy.  Would white Americans be willing to judge one of their own people as harshly as they do Barack Obama or his Pastor, Reverend Wright?  

Would Anglo Americans condemn one of the most profound and powerful Senators, Presidential aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton for her affiliation with the “Fellowship?”  Potential President Barack Obama “condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.”  Yet, Hillary Rodham Clinton, an active participant of the “most elite cell” [their term]  says nothing of the fact that . . .

The Family takes credit for some of Clinton’s rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing “religious freedom” in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.

The former First Lady, Caucasian Clinton may not have considered how these laws affect those in the Black community.  Certainly, one would imagine that the Senator, a scholar would understand that without birth control, abortions are more likely.  Perhaps, she, as most Anglo Americans is unfamiliar with a life that differs from her own.  

As an elite, among the “Family” Hillary Clinton may not have experienced the hurt that is an African-American’s life.  Those in Black neighborhoods have limited access to pharmacists and clinics.  The notion that African-Americans might shop around for someone to serve them is absurd.  We need only consider the availability of viable transportation, the cost to travel, and the ultimate truth, the quality of health care services.  Those whose complexion is dark in color remain separate and unequal in an America dominated by the affluent who are lighter in color and pray within a selective Fellowship.

Perchance, prosperous persons, members of the Family “cells,” people such as Senator Clinton, do not rant and rage as they reflect on racism.  They cannot; they do not relate.  These prominent individuals do not need to discuss their mediation which remains publicly unmentionable.  They to talk of prejudice or the policies they ratify in order to retain power.  Possibly, affluent Anglos and those who merely wish to appear proper do not need to speak of the strife that is their life in church, synagogues, or temples, for their situation does not compare.

For most Caucasians and for former First Lady Clinton, church conversations are yet to be called into question.  However, we might wonder, what if Senator Clinton’s religious beliefs, her practices, and her pastor are not subjects of scrutiny.  What if all Anglos were subject to such severe scrutiny?  Might the discussion help eliminate the disdain?  Could empathy be the cure for what ails America.  Barack Obama asked us to consider that possibility.  Yet, apparently the request is denied.

Churchgoers in the white community continue to think they do not speak of cruelties committed against them, few as these may be.  These pious people truly believe they live by the Golden Rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Sadly, it seems Anglos do not wish to discuss hypocrisy either.  Perhaps, those with paler complexions should.  From Americans reaction to the topic of racism, it is obvious, parishioners in pinkish neighborhoods still have much to learn of the Lord and the lessons he hoped to impart.



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 2

AdctyHp

Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text. Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

Sermons, Sources, A Search for Truth and Hope . . .

Homage to Lawrence King. Teach Tolerance To Adults and Children



Love Not Hate

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.

The opposite of art is not ugliness; it’s indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy; it’s indifference.

And the opposite of life is not death; it’s indifference.”


~ Elie Wiesel

It was February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.  Love was in the air.  However, the expressions of appreciation offered were mournful.  Doctors informed the family and his friends, Lawrence King, 15, was removed from life support.  Two days earlier, young Larry was in the computer lab at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California.  He sat with 24 other students when Brandon McInerney walked into the room with a gun.  The armed classmate, fourteen-years of age, approached Lawrence with intent.  Brandon aimed his weapon, pulled the trigger, and shot Lawrence in the head.  Without hesitation, the shooter ran from the building.  Circumstances led observers and police officers to conclude the act was intentional, calculated, and a conscious choice.  Brandon committed what is commonly defined as a “hate crime.”

Students were locked in classrooms.  Grief and disbelief filled the air.  Adults tried to calm the children.  Teens tried to cope.  Peers were befuddled.  Pupils sought information and shared what they knew.  After the event, fingers flew across cellular telephone keypads.  Text messages were sent and received from schoolroom to schoolroom.  The words were, “Brandon McInerney did the deed.”  ‘Not Brandon McInerney, No way.’

“Brandon wouldn’t do this,” eighth-grader Jessica Lee remembers thinking. “He’s a good kid. It can’t be Brandon.”

But some at the Oxnard junior high school had seen Larry, 15, teased by students in the weeks before the shooting for being gay and wearing high-heeled boots and makeup. Some witnessed confrontations between Larry and Brandon, with Larry teasing Brandon and saying he liked him.

Family members and friends described Larry as a sweet, artistic boy who loved to sing and didn’t understand why people reacted negatively to him.

Brandon, 14, a tall, athletic eighth-grader, was described by friends and acquaintances as a mellow, focused kid, but one who wouldn’t back down in a confrontation.

Brandon had learned his lessons well.  He learned to feel deeply.  Indifference was not part of his repertoire, intolerance was.  Perhaps from within the womb, he began his education.  Those who in an act of love came together to give birth to Brandon, apparently knew nothing more than volatile loathing.  Perchance, Brandon’s mother, Kendra and his father, William were raised to love or hate, but not tolerate.

We can be certain that baby Brandon did as all infants do  after birth, he absorbed all the messages that surrounded him. .  Education is not an isolated entity.  Knowledge is not gained only in a classroom.  Our first school is called home.  Structured lessons may inform us; however, these are never internalized as deeply as the wisdom we acquire at the knees of our Mom and Dad.  Parents have a profound influence on a child.  Those we love most have the power to teach us more.  Definitely, the occurrence taught Brandon what to do when he felt troubled.

Kendra McInerney, Brandon’s mother, claimed a night of partying in 1993 ended in a fight and William shooting her in the elbow, breaking it in several places, according to court records. Still, they married later that year, and Brandon was born in January 1994.

The fighting didn’t stop, and sometimes it was witnessed by Brandon and his two older half-brothers, according to court records. In 2000, William pleaded no contest to a domestic battery charge against Kendra. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to attend domestic violence classes. The couple separated in August 2000.

Love, or familiarity can breed contempt.  Even when someone no longer shares a physical space with the person that causes him or her distress that individual remains intimately connected in the heart.  Parting is not a sweet sorrow.  Indeed, it is often the source of more pain.  Indifference is rarely evident once an emotional bond is formed.  

For Kendra and William McInerney, separation did nothing to alleviate the angst they felt or expressed. , Nor, did living apart make life more livable for  the children.  Drinking, drugs, and violence were daily transgressions in Brandon’s life.  The stories are stark.  Yet, fortunately, it appeared Brandon survived.  Indeed, some would say he thrived.

Through all the family turmoil, Brandon got involved in activities outside the home, including martial arts and lifeguard training. He seemed to want something more than just the status quo of Silver Strand, Crave said.

“He didn’t want to be involved in that whole thing,” Crave said, gesturing at friends drinking a few beers nearby after getting off work.

Brandon joined the Young Marines – the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a JROTC program – several years ago and became a leader in the group, which disbanded last summer.

“Brandon was a young man that I would never have figured something like this would happen to,” said Mel Otte, his commanding officer.

Otte said he never witnessed Brandon showing a short temper and that he would have been kicked out of the group if he had bullied other kids.

“He was an outstanding young man,” Otte said.  “What happened since I left, I have no idea.”

What occurred did not take place in a instant.  The image of restraint did not transcend an earlier reality.  Change did not come on in a flash.  Often calm is a facade for the chaos that lay beneath the surface of a boy [girl, woman, or man] who battles emotional upheavals.  What was real for Brandon is true for each of us.  We learn and live what we believe is customary.  

Even those of us who “know better,” or are exposed to impressive amounts of information, organized to challenge unhealthy conventions, do as we have seen done, or was done to us.  Some escape the affects of sensory overload for a time.  Few abandon family traditions until long they have repeatedly fallen from grace.  Only an individual forced to face his or her “demons” day in and day out thinks to learn new habits.  

We all love easily.  We loathe with less effort.  What we do not do well is authentically accept others.  Few beings bother to have compassion, to learn from those who look, think, feel, or act differently.  Without empathy, everyone is a possible enemy.

Hate, or fear, of what we do not understand, motivates many a mind to react aggressively.  Apprehension and anxiety are not logical.  None of our emotions are.  Nevertheless, all too often humans, prideful of an intellectual capacity, are galvanized by feelings.  We are threatened by what we feel terrorizes us.  

For Brandon it was a boy who thought him fine.  For adults it may be a secret admirer, or an individual who has authority over us.   The neighbor who was unkind could seem a danger.  Mature men or women may believe the man in the automobile in front of them is a menace.  Even a small girl, on the corner, with her fingers out-stretched in a sign of peace could seem a hazard if our habit is to adopt an angry stance when we feel annoyed.  

People are familiar with what deeply disturbs them.  They know all too well how to demonstrate love and hate. Indifference is doable, as long as an n individual does not see or hear those outside their sphere.  Benevolence, perhaps that is the reaction, the action we do not learn from birth.

We all crave a connection.  Humans have needs.  Individuals long to be included, intimately involved; we wish to feel as though we have the right and power to make decisions for ourselves.  Men, women, and children are not indifferent.  Hence the dilemma.

When it seems we are unable to manage our world, humans freak.  Each of us responds differently, understandably.  Intellectually, people may recognize they cannot control the universe.  However, when stressed, we discover the habits we hold dear remain intact.  Our reactions are not innate, just well studied.  Brandon McInerney was not a bad boy.  He is a human being.  He reacted as he had learned to do.  Barely fourteen years of age, Brandon expressed his deep disdain for a situation and someone he could not control.

Chaos abounds.  Nonetheless, we try.  Too often, we fail.  A senseless murder, and what assassination is not absurd, illustrates what occurs when someone does not feel fulfilled and knows not what to do.  People in physical or psychological pain lash out in the ways they know how.

Brandon McInerney was baffled, no terrified, by the actions of another boy.  Lawrence did not cause bodily harm to his peer.  He did no verbal damage, at least not intentionally.  Paradoxically, when Larry spoke of Brandon, he articulated his sincere admiration.  That is what bothered the young boy Brandon.  Love, especially when expressed unconventionally, caused Brandon’s heart and mind to break.  The young lad, now passed, Larry, did not bully Brandon or his buddies.  Indeed, the other boys hassled Lawrence prior to his final day.

In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.

McInerney, now in custody, refuses to speak of what motivated him.  His lawyer offers the fourteen year old is too young to fully understand his actions.  Perhaps all people are too immature to rationalize the unreasonable, revulsion, repulsion, and feelings of repugnance.

What is hate?  Certainly, it is an emotion, as inexplicable as fondness.  Each can be voiced to the extreme.  Neither is inconsequential.  Perhaps, when humans feel adoration or antipathy they lose all perspective.  The chemistry we feel when we connect intensely is uncontrollable.  If only people could capture the energy and place it in a bottle before they pop.

Assemblyman Mike Eng (Democrat, Monterey Park), chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, said we would, with a bit of money directed towards teaching diversity, be able to stop crimes against people based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

“My bill is focusing on [hate crime] prevention,” Eng said after a news conference at his El Monte district office. “We already have bills on the books about proper punishment; mine will focus on dealing with hatred in a school setting.”

Eng hopes to create a pilot program by allocating up to $150,000 to establish a diversity and sensitivity curriculum at a few school districts.  The pilot program would serve as a model to be used to develop lesson plans statewide.

Others in the community believe the proposed program only serves to comfort parents and Principals, adults, and not adolescents.  Countless argue that similar programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), are ineffective.  These simplistic strategies always were nothing more than slogans used to appease anxious adults.  Although these agendas survive, they do not strengthen the will or the character of the young persons they serve.  At times, instruction is as indifference.  If you do not know what to do,  or say about an open wound, look for an easy answer.  Apply salve, and walk away.  Most of us truly believe the sore will eventually heal by itself.

Here’s a news flash: “Just Say No” is not an effective anti-drug message. And neither are Barney-style self-esteem mantras . . .

DARE, which is taught by friendly policemen in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts, has been plagued by image problems from the beginning, when it first latched on to Nancy Reagan’s relentlessly sunny and perversely simplistic “Just say No” campaign.  The program’s goals include teaching kids creative ways to say “no” to drugs, while simultaneously bolstering their self-esteem (which DARE founders insist is related to lower rates of drug use). . . .

According to an article published in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, DARE not only did not affect teenagers’ rate of experimentation with drugs, but may also have actually lowered their self-esteem. . . .

The findings were grim: 20-year-olds who’d had DARE classes were no less likely to have smoked marijuana or cigarettes, drunk alcohol, used “illicit” drugs like cocaine or heroin, or caved in to peer pressure than kids who’d never been exposed to DARE.  But that wasn’t all. “Surprisingly,” the article states, “DARE status in the sixth grade was negatively related to self-esteem at age 20, indicating that individuals who were exposed to DARE in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem 10 years later.”  Another study, performed at the University of Illinois, suggests some high school seniors who’d been in DARE classes were more likely to use drugs than their non-DARE peers.

Still, Americans, intent on straightforward solutions, quick fixes, and immediate gratification, forget that life is not so simple. The family teaches children from birth.  The lessons we learn in our youngest years are internalized deeply.  In infancy, each day we encounter our mother, father, or guardian, the people we need most, and most want to love us.  As toddlers, we are intimately involved with our caregivers, even if they do not seem to care for us.  When we are children, the only choice that we have, the only option that gives us a sense of control, is to cling to those who help us survive.  Moms and Dads are our first and best, teachers, if only because they are there in whatever capacity.

However, sadly, for some of us, such as Brandon McInerney our mentors did not teach us well.  Schools try to suffice.  Teachers with ten, twenty forty to a class try to create a relationship with each student.  As educators teach Math, Science, Reading, and English, they work to provide a sense of self-worth to each and every young scholar.  For a few hours, five days a week, a troubled youngster can call his or her classroom home.  

For young people such as Larry, school may have been a place to blossom, somewhere where he felt safe, or for both the boys an educational institution may have been the place where lessons begun at birth were reinforced.  Each was teased, bullied, and verbally battered.  Each had friends.  However, they may not have felt they achieved an authentic intimate connection with anyone.  Even acquaintances can say . . .

“He had a character that was bubbly,” Marissa said. “We would just laugh together. He would smile, then I would smile, and then we couldn’t stop.”

An ally in life does more than smile or laugh.  Larry King may have felt he had few real supporters, in a school he attended for only months.  How close can two people be when they see each other only for hours and then each returns to their own abode.  One may return to the place they consider “Home Sweet Home,” the other may reside in an institution, far from those who are “supposed” to love him.

For several months before to the shooting, Larry had been living at Casa Pacifica, a residential center for troubled youths in Camarillo.

Lawrence’s parents are alive and well, as are his four siblings, a younger brother, two older brothers, and an older sister.  While the family spoke lovingly of the dearly departed, they dared not speak of why the lad no longer lived with them.  Many children today are placed in treatment agencies.  The numbers are staggering.  The reasons are astounding.  Yet, when people know not how to love well, and are not indifferent, they do what they may hate to do.

The number of children placed in residential treatment centers (or RTCs) (1) is growing exponentially.(2) These modern-day orphanages now house more than 50,000 children nationwide.(3)  Children are packed off to RTCs, often sent by officials they have never met, who have probably never spoken to their parents, teachers or social workers.(4) Once placed, these kids may have no meaningful contact with their families or friends for up to two years.(5) And, despite many documented cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, monitoring is inadequate to ensure that children are safe, healthy and receiving proper services in RTCs.(6) By funneling children with mental illnesses into the RTC system, states fail-at enormous cost-to provide more effective community-based mental health services.(7)

RTC placements are often inappropriate.

RTCs are among the most restrictive mental health services and, as such, should be reserved for children whose dangerous behavior cannot be controlled except in a secure setting.(8) Too often, however, child-serving bureaucracies hastily place children in RTCs because they have not made more appropriate community-based services available.(9) Parents who are desperate to meet their kids’ needs often turn to RTCs because they lack viable alternatives.(10)

To make placement decisions, families in crisis and overburdened social workers rely on the institutions’ glossy flyers and professional websites with testimonials of saved children.(11)  But all RTCs are not alike.(12)  Local, state and national exposés and litigation “regarding the quality of care in residential treatment centers have shown that some programs promise high-quality treatment but deliver low-quality custodial care.”(13) As a result, parents and state officials play a dangerous game of Russian roulette as they decide where to place children, because little public information is available about the RTCs, which are under-regulated and under-supervised.

Yet, parents and community services agencies take those who are perhaps most vulnerable, our young and troubled teens, and place them in Residential Treatment Centers not able to provide minimal care.  When we, as a culture consider other options, and other means for childcare, we cannot but think of poor Brandon and how he suffered at the hands of his mother and father.  We are reminded that Brandon, the tormented shooter, lived in a location he called home.  We might wonder; which situation was better, worse, or can we even compare the traumas each child in this story suffered.

Brandon and Larry are not anomalies.  They are not alone.  Children throughout our country are taught to express love in a violent manner.  The little ones watch adults they admire model cruelty.  The young are trained to demonstrate their contempt similarly.  Sadistic reactive behaviors rule in our society.  Listen to people ruthlessly scream in the marketplace.  Consider the abundance of “hate crimes” in America.  Turn on the television.  Tune into the radio.  Read the “literature.”  Hostile conduct is commended and condoned.

For too many of our offspring, aggression in their daily existence is the norm.  They hear it in their homes; see their parent bludgeon each other.  As toddlers, tots, children, or teens our youth feel the bruises on their back, and remember the bones broken by those they love most.  Ponder the statistics.

During FFY 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Children in the age group of birth to 3 years had the highest rate of victimization at 16.5 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;
  • More than one-half of the victims were 7 years old or younger (54.5%)
  • More than one-half of the child victims were girls (50.7%) and 47.3 percent were boys; and
  • Approximately one-half of all victims were White (49.7%); one-quarter (23.1%) were African-American; and 17.4 percent were Hispanic.

Gender preference did not determine maltreatment when infants and the very young among were involved.  Specific biases are learned as we “mature.”  While many wish to focus on Larry’s identification with the gay community as reason for such a horrific reaction, the cause for Brandon’s response goes far deeper. Scorn is rarely selective.  Disparagement is an equal opportunity employer.

Abusive behaviors are rooted in our personal history.  We cannot dismiss the fact that as a society, our past performances towards those we disdain are deplorable.  As a culture, emotional beings that we are, we embrace love and hate, and ignore indifference.

We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to our offspring from the day they enter this world, and why.  Answers offered after the fact, solutions that do not address the broader question will not stop the violence we see in schools.  Nor will it quash the mayhem or reduce the murders we see on our streets.  Hate crimes are born at home.  Mothers and fathers motivate much that occurs.  Moms and Dads often do what was done to them.

Children ‘learn violence from parents’

Children who witness domestic violence are at an increased risk of having abusive relationships as adults, researchers have found.

Being abused as a child and having behavioural problems also increases the risk of being violent as adults.  Receiving excessive punishment is another risk factor.  US researchers from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute followed 540 children for 20 years from 1975 . . .

If a pattern of violent behaviour towards a partner has been established, it is difficult to change say the researchers. . . .

If a child was hit by their parents, they were much more likely to see violence as a way of resolving problems as adults, the researchers found.

But seeing violence perpetuated between parents was found the be the greatest risk factor for being the victim of a violent partner as an adult.

Both men and women who witnessed domestic violence were likely to grow up to abuse their partners . . .

“This acceptance of coercive, power-based norms as ways of regulating conflict may have direct implications for young adults’ means of conflict resolution with partners, independent of a disruptive behaviour disorder.”

For too many of our young persons a forceful hand, a furious face, and a vicious voice are identified with those they are most fond of.  Children are confused.  In too many lives, love does not come easily.  Little ones do not know what authentic affection looks like.  As “mature” beings, some people seek the wisdom they did not acquire in their family homes.  They wish to learn of what could not have been fully integrated in a school curriculum.  Grown-up persons harmed by habits that debilitate a mind, body, heart, and soul know to their core, habits die hard.  Adult classes meant to teach as Assemblyman Eng proposed exist at West Virginia University an older person can study How To Communicate Love.  Learners are instructed, “Love comes from within.”  Students are advised to appreciate themselves.

Learning to love yourself will help create your personal appearance of love. If you do not know how to love yourself, you will not be able to love others. Loving yourself also means that you have a loving attitude in your actions and responses toward others; that you look for opportunities to help rather than be helped; that you communicate a loving appreciation of others with “thank you” and “please” as part of your vocabulary; that you forgive others and do not hold a grudge; and that you help people in need without thought of reward or recognition.

However, ultimately pupils are reminded of what Lawrence and Brandon have helped us realize.

How we communicate love to others is learned; we are not born with the ability to communicate love.

Nor are we born with the ability to hate.  Each of us, every man, woman, and child is well-trained.  If we are to truly end the violence that exists in schools, we must eliminate the hostility in our homes.  Assemblyman Eng, perhaps a program in parenting, one instituted in every community throughout the globe might be more effective than any instruction in a school.  If we are to truly teach forbearance to our progeny we must acknowledge parents, adults in every avenue are our life teachers.   Let us not speak of how best to teach the children tolerance.  We, their elders must learn how to love first.  Perhaps, if the elders begin to appreciate each other without brutality, next Valentine’s Day Cupid will not shoot arrow.  He will bestow gentle kisses on each of us.

“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex.

Larry was a masterpiece.”


~ Reverend Dan Birchfield, Westminster Presbyterian Church

Sources, Societal Scars, Scabs . . .