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No Pleasure Ride On A Unicorn: The Case For “Uncivil” Civil Rights Activism


“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”  - Albert Einstein

Following September 11, 2001, we found ourselves plunged in an open-ended conflict with a truly daunting “terror” of a bloodthirsty, sectarian, and medieval character. Not only has the United States become embroiled in rudderless military adventures of a wholly destructive nature (for unarmed civilians and armed servicemembers alike), but sections of the United States military are now held literally hostage by an American variant of the dreaded Taliban. Christian fundamentalist theocrats have embedded themselves deep within our armed forces as well as our legislatures, with severely grave repercussions on servicemember morale, good order, discipline, mental health, and consequently, American national security.

As the founder, president, and principal spokesperson of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), since 2005 I’ve witnessed over 34,000 servicemember, veteran, and civilian clients plead for relief from egregious actions and attempts at literal spiritual molestation. Whether we’re talking about the relentless whine of unconstitutional proselytization from superior officers and NCOs or the outrageous, coercive, and violent bigotry visited upon religious, irreligious, and gender and/or sexual minorities, meaningful resistance to superiors simply isn’t an option within the U.S. military.

In short, “Get the freakin’ hell out of my face, sir or ma’am” is not an option for military subordinates in the armed forces of the United States.

Enter the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. We follow Einstein’s homily about the need to fight evil as our cherished mantra and Prime Directive. We are ever mindful that confronting this vicious hatred can be done in more than one way. Indeed, while the heroic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused “We shall overcome” as his mantra, it was Malcolm X who claimed “No, we shall come OVER” as his modus operandi. We are the sole civil rights organization representing the myriad browbeaten and oppressed sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, and armed forces veterans, of a literal rainbow of faiths and no faith, who’ve had no recourse but to reach out to us when faced with the sick-minded, fundamentalist religious zeal that possesses many high-ranking military authorities. It is precisely this irrational proselytizing lust that clearly supersedes the perpetrators’ fealty to the oaths they swore to defend and protect the Constitution.

However, I’m frequently criticized – to put it mildly – for being “impolite,” “intemperate,” “abrasive,” and “uncivil.” Similar to the yellow bellied would-be allies of the civil rights movement who saw fit to referee the “divisive rhetoric” of the most outspoken fighters, in private these fair-weather friends have had no choice but to admit that “Mikey Weinstein and MRFF are right!”

History has its own criteria, and has long passed judgment on those heroes who bore the real sacrifice in the civil rights fight of the 60′s. Was it the militants who fought hard and aroused their communities to struggle, or the chattering heads from among the political classes? Was it those who opined and philosophized in the comfort of their own homes, offices, and lecterns, or those who exposed themselves to constant enemy fire?

Will a gentle, refined tap on the shoulder and whisper in the ear suffice for the Training and Education Command of the United States Marine Corps when they deride our valiant atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and freethinking members of the Corps as potential suicide liabilities?

Will polite reminders that racism and discrimination are unacceptable halt the sort of blindly stupefying Islamophobic and anti-Arab bigotry that courageous Sgt. 1st Class Naida Christian Nova, a faithful Catholic, faced when she deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan?