Monday, November 03, 2003

FrogRabbitMonkey has delivered to David Hoggard an "official endorsement from a local, fringy, left-wing-wacko chick with a website." She's got her other endorsements up, too.

Here's my endorsement: FrogRabbitMonkey is one fine weblog.

6:48:37 PM    comment []

You may be reading in the local papers tomorrow about a controversy at Greensboro College. A woman named Joanne Highley was scheduled to speak at the college's Finch Chapel, but her appearance was canceled because she was going to talk about the evils of homosexuality from a conservative Christian point of view.

The talk was not sponsored by the college, which often rents its facility to outside groups. A local evangelical ministry called Faith in Focus planned the event, which will now be held at Caldwell Academy.

The head of Faith in Focus, Alex McFarland, is my friend and office neighbor on South Elm Street. I know that Alex is not a hateful person. What's more, homosexuality is not a front-burner issue with him. He is clear about repudiating hate-mongers like Fred Phelps, and was reluctant to publicize the flap over the canceled event because he knows that some people will assume the wrong things about him and his organization. None of which is entirely relevant, but it seems important to me.

At the same time, I understand why Highley, who spoke earlier this year to school administrators in Forsyth County, raises some red flags. She says she is a former lesbian and that other people can and should stop acting on homosexual desires by practicing a rigorous brand of Christianity. Several such "ex-gay" ministries have cropped up in recent years. These groups are offensive to many people, who question the science of claiming that homosexuality is a chosen behavior, and the ethics of singling out homosexuals for criticism and moral opprobrium. Highley, for example, has been quoted referring to homosexuality as "Satanic."

Leaving aside the right of a private college to limit the use of its facilities to certain groups, and the propriety of canceling a scheduled event, I think Greensboro College could have handled this better. Highley has spoken at other universities, some more liberal than Greensboro. As Alex points out, Highley's views would have been amenable to the college's Methodist founders. Why not use her visit as a teaching opportunity, not just as a lesson in diversity but as a chance to explore how Christianity has taken divergent paths on the issue of homosexuality? 

I don't think those discussions would necessarily play out in ways favorable to Highley. I certainly don't share her views on theology or homosexuality. And as a heterosexual, maybe it's not my place to urge discussion of her particular ideas, even if my purpose is in part to call those ideas into question. But I do feel that the college acted hastily here, and I know that all the folks who have sent obscenity-laced emails to Alex need some training in manners and rhetoric.

6:07:38 PM    comment []

My newspaper column says Greensboro's political and business establishment should support the Truth and Reconciliation project that aims to document the 1979 Klan-Nazi killings.

So far, my email is running 2-1 against the project. I argued that people should look past Nelson Johnson. The email is all about Nelson Johnson.

If people fear the influence of Nelson Johnson, an erstwhile leader of the Communist Workers Party (the group that had five members shot dead in the street that day) and an obstructionist during the subsequent criminal trials, then they should counter his influence by contributing to the report.

The report is coming. What it says is up to the community.

I do not expect any thoughtful, well-documented report to make the CWP look very good. Their politics of armed rebellion and focus on a moribund KKK seem even more disconnected from reality than they did 24 years ago. Many of the details aren't kind to them: the "Death to the Klan" rally at which the killings occurred was not an abstract challenge to the armed dregs of a dying group, but a personal call-out to people the CWP had confronted face-to-face at China Grove, NC, weeks beforehand. The lack of cooperation with the prosecutors contributed to the lack of convictions in the criminal trials.

But there is shame to go around. The only other group to take the CWP as seriously as they took themselves was Federal law enforcement, which bears some responsibility for sparking the deadly confrontation. The City of Greensboro has already been found negligent for not having police on hand at the rally.

And after 24 years, it's time for people here to give up the defense that the victims and their killers weren't from Greensboro. So what? They were Americans, many of them from nearby communities. It did happen here. We have a historical marker downtown showing where Jefferson Davis convened the Confederate cabinet as they fled south from the fall of Richmond; they weren't from here, either...

There is a fascinating story to be told about the members of the doomed CWP, some of them doctors who gave up practicing medicine to become radical labor organizers. What were they thinking? Did they want to be martyrs? What made them believe that the way to change society was confronting a fringe group that was already well on its way to history's dustbin?

As I wrote, the human element is a big part of the missing story. "(T)hese people were gunned down on the streets of a city where too many people want to forget them. They deserve to have their stories told."

8:42:14 AM    comment []