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Letter: Of division and healing


LeBron Raymone James! Apart from being very concerned about your future as one of the world’s greatest basketball players, I fear by calling Donald Trump a bum you have surely given bums a bad rap. Can anyone in their right mind imagine a bum going into Alabama and doing what the U.S. president did on Friday, Sept. 22nd?

In a political campaign speech supporting Luther Strange, the president seemed to go out of his way to deepen and widen the racial divide that has beleaguered the United States since long before the Civil War. But nowhere, it seems to me, has the divide been so pronounced as in Alabama.

Alabama, where innocent children attending Sunday school were blown to eternity by white supremacists.

Alabama, the home of the Montgomery jail where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent so many days for leading peaceful protest demonstrations.

Alabama, the home of Bull Connor.

The place where policemen set their vicious dogs on peaceful protesters.

Where law enforcement officials used fire hoses to enforce Jim Crow laws and pulverize peaceful protestors.

The place where the very trees would bow and weep when a white man approached it with a piece of rope in his hand.

Yet, Alabama is where the president of the United States decided to call out those National Football League players who choose to take a knee “sons of bitches.” It just so happens that nearly 70 per cent of NFL players are Afro-American and the act of taking a knee was begun by black player Colin Kaepernick to protest what he saw as police brutality against black people throughout the U.S.

But the president was vehement in his denial that his remarks had anything to do with race. He also claimed the players were being totally disrespectful of the flag and the anthem by kneeling and that the owners of the clubs should not permit it.

My first reaction was that either the president was totally ignorant of Alabama/U.S. history or is out of his mind. With his one sentence he set off a firestorm of criticism and showed the world how unchecked power can have such bitter consequences.

My question for Trump would be: if you believe that players kneeling in peaceful protest during the anthem is disrespectful, when would be an appropriate time? Dr. King had it right. To those whose policies are being protested there is no good time to protest, therefore you demonstrate when and where you can have maximum impact. The players’ tactics of peaceful protest were a stroke of genius and would have done Dr. King proud. Those who object have been out-foxed.

Here at home, we celebrate the partial closing of our own divide. As Bob Wakeham wrote in his column, “Denominational education — the great divide,” Sept. 30: “It was religious segregation, pure and simple, a practice that belonged to the Dark Ages.”

And so, it was until the 1990s, right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Like Wakeham, I grew up in rural Newfoundland, and there were only a handful of Catholic families in our town — so few that very early on they had to go to another town to attend mass. And yet while the older people may have mentioned “the Micks and the Prods,” many of us found our way to each other, because being so young and innocent we neither knew nor cared about the religious divide. And so we children often found that the very best of the best were of that other denomination. And many of us believe it to this day, although neither has much religion perhaps.

Only a few weeks back there was a cry of the heart in these pages over the loss of denominational education. And there are still others who argue that had not the Catholic Church been crippled by its sexual abuse scandal, we would still have the denominational system today.

Whatever the truth, one can only hope we never return to that divisive system and that we continue with our own work of healing.

Wayne Norman
St. John’s

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