This was said by a pastor I know of, who will remain nameless. Why nameless, when he might claim credit for such elegant words of wisdom? Because even he is worried about race-denouncement, social media canceling, hounding, banishment from his social support circle, ruin in defense against lawsuits, and threat to livelihood.

To finish his sermon, if I may be so bold (someone please shout “testify, brother!”): reflect on how far from our history and culture this episode shows we have gone: we Americans have uniquely foundational free speech, with a three century tradition of leading the world in using it. How many wars did we fight to defend it? We have a foundational guarantee of freedom of religious conscience (again, utterly unique). And here is a pastor in the most liberal city in the nation (or so New York touts) prior-restrained from speaking his learned conscience from his pulpit.

Another thing worthy of reflection is what freedom of religion means, if exercising it is so perilous. Also, what does this silencing mean, when someone says we are primarily a Christian country (in criticism or in praise).

An another is to reflect on how few Americans want this censoring, which we certainly never voted for.

Yet another is that this stifling has happened to a mainline pastor of a religious school of proud provenance, which has been historically powerful in getting America to turn from our racial sin. This liberal religious coalition is the lion’s share of the power that brought Dr King his dual-triumph, in the balance of changing the course of the nation without getting lots of people killed (an achievement sacred as it is rare). This fundamental stifling comes after the Supreme Court has moved on to entertain fringe frivolities, like forcing a mainline churchman to produce a cake for a gay wedding.

Meanwhile, I have spent much of my career on the ground, in the devastated neighborhoods of the People of Color (POC) that all the fuss is about. I have not seen any uptick in volunteers making themselves available to turn all this social media activity into actual calories of work making themselves useful to the POC they patronize. If one presumes to help someone, they should go up and ask what they need (I’ve actually done this. Know what “they” say?: “I’d rather not go to jail”). In spite of all the froth, I’ve seen no reading program volunteers, no nursing home helpers, no free job counseling (much less active recruiting into jobs they might make for them). I can provide phone numbers for those who want to actually help POC rather than make a display in what is the very definition of the ephemeral: cyberspace.

All of this onanistic virtue-signaling is bad enough. At least pornographic cyber-onanism simulates love. But this has evolved into tearing down ministers actually on the ground addressing the problems of the day; changing the fantasy from simulated love to actual rape.

In asking POC about all this, a shocking number have told me that the arms-length simulated-help (with the rarified cultural concerns) is a feature, not a bug: they suspect that the racism persists to where even helpers don’t want to go near them. Of course! The scales fell from my eyes. The nothingness IS the point. It can be seen in the word for what they are: cyber-warrior. The very concept cancels itself out: there can be no such thing as a warrior who risks nothing.

We have terrible race problems, but addressing them will cost those concerned something directly, and they would rather “cyber” than pay. Reforming the schools that disproportionately harm POC means the Democrats will have to pay and change, and they would rather not. Reforming how we put POC in prison will mean their party would have to pay and change, and they would rather not. This would have compromised their delivery from President Trump. But to do it, they had to turn to someone who had more to do with the over-incarceration policies than anyone active in American politics (well, just about. incredibly, his Vice President might be his only rival for offending on over-incarceration). Policies which remain our clearest examples of structural racism.

But, to justify a conviction, to conjure solidity, no matter how lacking its substance (or because it’s lacking in substance), somebody has to pay. Cyber-warriors must know, at least on a subconscious level, that the value of their belief is exactly as valuable as the click of their Thumbs-Down icon (and what better metaphor: pagan cyber-emperors in the cyber-coliseum, indulging wants, risking nothing).

So a system of actual sacrifice has been built. This is the silencing, the canceling, the public shows of denouncement, the banishments, the high-risk lawsuits. The impossibility of redemption, transcendence, or forgiveness. Our pastor has no need to be sacrificed for something valueless (his Godhead paid the price himself, so that everyone can be forgiven, always and forever).

For the sacrifice, the cyber-warriors had to put asterisks on two pillars of our Bill of Rights. The alterations to our bedrock which were never built (nor taken away), and never could be. The powers the cyber-warriors use to silence our pastor, to tip his crown of ancient rights, which make up the foundation of the oldest, and most successful political covenant on the planet, are mostly unwritten. Which is why it’s so hard to see how we can take the power back. To remove those asterisks.

Know when else America had asterisks behind our covenants? When we denied the POC the promises their defenders would now deny everyone else.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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