I have now sat in several official gatherings of Republicans, the last being this week in Convention, my head bowed in a group prayer that became as inappropriate in a civic gathering as it is in a corporate gathering, inappropriate for its exclusive references to but one religious tradition. I remember when Jewish citizens, for instance, could feel at home in the Republican Party in Indianapolis, respected as equal citizens. No jewish citizen would have felt equal and respected in either of the gatherings I attended. Nor would have any Hindu American or Chinese-American, or Japanese American, nor even any American Indian. None would have felt, I think, that the podium any longer sought to unite with them as Americans in a common journey. And no American even of Christian Tradition should reflect warmly on the cold impositions of the Christian religious political activists in the Republican Party today.
Having grown up in Washington Township, attending Springmill elementary, Northview Middle School, and North Central Highschool, and grown up in the fashion of prepdom of the early 80's, I used to joke that children in Washington Township only rebelled within the context of the Republican Party. Democrats in my awareness were few to be found.
But the Republican Washington Township of old did not lack diversity. For example, Springmill elementary included
children of most ethnicities and religions and the school had festivals and class exercises in which we brought to school emblems and traditions of our families. It was at Springmill that this Methodist became acquainted with Judaism, Hannukah, and the Dreidel, and the garb of fashion of the Greek Orthodox Church, with its red boiled eggs, for instance. From the first grade on in Washington Township until I graduated, I was in presence of African American kids indistinguishable in intelligence, wit, and work ethic from everyone. The only divisions that I might remember were between the well-behaved majority and a few kids who consistently misbehaved. Of those misbehaving, I recall no unifying characteristic but their misbehavior.
On the playground and in the classroom, we played games oblivious to the idea that differences were of any importance. That the religion of this child was of lesser importance than of that child, or that the race of this child was of some superiority to the race of the other I don't recall ever crossing my mind, or being discussed. I don't recall in school any supposition that Christianity, for instance, was innately superior nor of higher precedence in America. Rather, the supposition was that the one unifying lesson of our history was that America's unique greatness was as a container in which all could find life and happiness in a state of civic equality. Those were the civics of Springmill Elementary and of the Republican Party of my parents in Washington Township, a culture of clarity about what it meant to be American.
How polluted that clarity has become. I have heard the podium of the Republican Party speak of the value of diversity, but saw a party platform before me that as a matter of official policy seeks to alienate gay citizens from the equal protections of the Constitution and of the courts that enforce it. I have heard the podium speak of respect for all, but disgrace itself with a recurring and insulting indulgence in sectarian prayer.
The founding fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish a society of rights. To any Republican who might read these words, indeed to any Hoosier, I hope you are aware that you have an obligation personally to combat the prejudice that in your name to seeks to dominate the levers of government in Indiana, a prejudice which is achieving a historic level of influence. How can you honor the founders, indeed the troops that seek to establish rights abroad, if you yourself do less to protect freedom from the threats brewing here?