“But Maybe You Don’t Embrace Capitalism Like I Do” ?

I get comments.

Yesterday, I got what seems to be a drive-by comment from a person who really just doesn’t get it.

I’ve seen much worse, and more offensive language, and harsher tones. I don’t know why this particular one jumped out at me. Perhaps it was the dismissive hand-waiving, or the arguments from ignorance. Whatever the case,  I think her position represents the attitude of a great many people who are unfamiliar with the story so far.

Below is my response, with her comment embedded in full.

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Thank you for commenting on my website, I do encourage open and honest discussion. You are speaking from an uninformed point of view. I basically believe that we are in agreement about everything. We have said from the start that neither of our events should have been funded at all. It is not the governments place to endorse any large scale membership drive (rock the fort) or tolerance-raising event (ours) when it comes to religion. That is a private matter, and has no bearing on how ‘fit’ a soldier is.

So you all are upset that your “free” event won’t be funded by my tax dollars?

We are upset about being lied to about the justification for not cancelling the evangelical Christian mega-membership drive “willing and able to provide similar levels of support to any other event” Also, we weren’t pursuing your tax-dollars. We were hoping to tap into one of the many non-appropriated funds for the things outlined in this article. MWR has a non-appropriated fund that they solicit fundraising to all of the local businesses, philanthropists, and regular donors etc. Or, we could tap into the CTOF fund that the Rock the Fort event claims to (though this is not entirely clear). Either way, check your facts first.

And you are claiming that you are not a counter event to some religious event that went on in the same place even though you continue to criticize and slam this other event.

We are claiming that we are not *Just* a counter event. That we are not anti-religious, anti-christian, or anti-anything. We are simply raising tolerance and awareness for the military’s second largest religious demographic: “No Religious Preference”. You are twisting both the meaning and the script of the words I wrote about the other event. 99% of the content on this site is completely not about the Rock the Fort event at all. I only bring it up because it is contextually relevant in a much bigger way now that the Army has broken their promise (bluff) to support all other groups equally (once again, not our preferred situation either). But they aren’t even ‘willing or able’ to do this. It’s special favors for the proselytizers at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and crippling limitations for the next biggest piece of the pie.

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

I admit, I do get angry when established law and DoD regulations aren’t enough to make justice prevail. Sounds like justifiable anger at discrimination to me.

I don’t believe my tax dollars should be spent on religous or non-religous entertainment events anywhere.

AGREED. Too bad that the Army spends tens of millions of dollars on religious (invariably evangelical christian) events, and built a $30 million dollar ‘Spiritual Fitness Center’ / mega-church on Fort hood. And forced Soldiers against their will to attend Christian Rock ‘Spiritual Fitness’ events, and often punished those who didn’t attend. And that’s just for starters. The disastrous Comprehensive Soldier Fitness budget is $121 million for mandatory Spiritual Fitness testing and training (all of which is unconstitutional, Article VI, paragraph 3) Why don’t you look into the various religions and how much appropriated funds are being spent on recruitment efforts for each one, but beware, your small government / capitalist political leanings need to really brace themselves for impact! The total amount should be 0$, but it’s shockingly high. As an active duty soldier, I got the smallest annual pay increase for inflation in over 50 years this year as part of the budget cuts necessary to keep the country going. If I were you, I’d do an about face and scream your rant in the other direction. That’s the side that isn’t listening.

If you are so convinced that your message and the people who represent your message are so “hot” then put your show on at a different venue and sell tickets. Or you could get several sponsors to underwrite the expenses.

We were explicitly told not to sell tickets by Fort Bragg (direct order!). And we were told for the last 5+ months that we would be getting the same treatment as the Rock the Fort event (also banned from selling tickets). We definitely wanted MWR to raise funds like they told us they would if the Commander signed his decision letter without all the last-minute crippling restrictions. If not, then certainly the other non-appropriated funds over at the CTOF vehicle would have sufficed just fine. We were basically given the green light for several months, told we were getting everything we asked for, then at the very last possible minute they gave us the middle finger treatment we got.

But maybe you don’t embrace capitalism like I do.

Maybe you don’t embrace the constitution, federal regulations, the U.S. Military, and defending the nation like I do. I think that you know damn well that neither of our statements are probably true about each other, but it sure is easy to sound like you’re winning an argument when you call the other guy names. Let’s take a step back and agree to disagree when we have disagreements. Maybe one of us will learn something and change our minds. I love it when I’m wrong about something. It gives me another opportunity to learn, to grow, to be a better person…

When I was left with 2 kids no support and no job I started my own company and ended up working with the most famous people in the world as a backstage/production specialist. When I copro-ed an event to raise money for a local pediatric AIDS foundation,(I wanted to help the helpless) I got a lot of inkind support from many organizations who couldn’t or wouldn’t send money. I also received product donations from some famous people which were auctioned off for $$’s. The bands at the event traded their performances for a few drinks and ACT-UP NYC sent a film that had been shown at an event at the Guggenheim Museum a year prior.

Except for the years that my team members have spent fighting wars, our efforts have been very similar… Maybe your experience could be valuable to our movement, and we are obviously in need of help. Also, I’m extremely proud of the fact that every single member of our lineup waved 100% of their honorarium/fee, no booze necessary. We don’t live near any cities with famous people, but many of our guests, including Richard Dawkins even offered to pay their own travel/meal expenses. The VAST majority of the evangelical Christian event’s Donut + Sandwich funds were spent WAY before their event even happened, at their luncheons and shmoozing sessions.

The venue gave us the night for free.

Congratulations. We were promised this as well, and I’m not the type to wish ill on you and your cause, so I’m happy that your venue’s offer wasn’t based on lies. If you think that venue didn’t have to pay for their liability insurance, electricity, bartenders, bouncers, parking lot maintenance, wear and tear on equipment, wiring and lighting time and effort, disposables like trashbags napkins cups, dishwashers, water bill for drinks and restrooms, an evening that could have been geared towards profit… then you aren’t a very strong event producer…

No one was asked for a dime except the attendees who were charged $5 at the door and the silent auction costs $2 for 1 ticket& $3 for 5.

Again, specifically ordered not to do this. Military is different than your life. Try to put yourself in our shoes for a minute.

No one was asked for a dime except the attendees who were charged $5 at the door and the silent auction costs $2 for 1 ticket& $3 for 5. In fact I suggested that should anyone want to make an additional donation they make the check directly out to the charity. My event raised $500 for this local charity and a shopping bag full of beanie babies. However a few thousand additional dollars were donated directly to the charity by several citizens.

We were going to be sitting on a surplus of our fundraising efforts (to pay for air fares and honorariums, as was the agreement all along, and as the evangelical Christian event was treated.) 100% of the remainder was to be given to charity as well, and we were looking at significantly more $ than you describe being donated in the end (including the late-coming donors). This is an odd pissing contest we’re having. Let’s just respect each other as philanthropists, no?

I did not take my “expenses” out first.

If you didn’t budget the costs beforehand, you are extremely under-prepared to produce a large scale event like the one we were planning…

I also did not criticize anyone or any entity because they didn’t live up to my opinion of a commitment.

You also did not get shut down by your venue, and shoved into one 5% of its size (imagine doing your event in the janitor’s closet at whatever venue you were at). You also did not find yourself being discriminated against for religious reasons. Your event also did not receive all the other last minute crippling restrictions, such as a refusal to solicit funding on our behalf, or to let us use the many other Non-appropriated methods of funding events that already exist.(read: NOT TAXPAYER $)

I am tired of people with their own narrow-minded pro or con agenda using the non-profit/501C3 rap to support their cause. Non-profit just means that you have to spend it all before the end of the tax-year.

That’s weird because you are the only person here who seems to have had a 501c3 agenda, though I support AIDS research. We are local volunteers, most of us Soldiers / spouses of soldiers. We have been passionately working on this on an all-volunteer basis for 5+ months. We had worked to have a 501c3 ‘sponsored project’ status ready to go if necessary, but that was not our piece of the pie at all, and we never obtained that official sponsorship status (though we could at the drop of a hat). We only want to exist as a TEMPORARY entity, not a recurring or persistent thing that a 501c3 foundation would be.

To see you complain about the cost of their donuts versus your entertainment’s hotel expenses churns my stomach.

To see you complain about our careful, by-the-book planning efforts, and to so woefully misunderstand the situation as a whole hurts my brain. I sincerely hope that you are a big enough person to admit when you are wrong about something, as sometimes does seem to happen on this blog’s comment section. But most of the time, people pick a side and go with it despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. I am able to back up everything I’ve said about our intentions, efforts, and hard work, as well as everything I’ve said about the conditions in the military, and the treatment we’ve received from the Garrison Commander. You should really look into the issues that I’m bringing up here, every other person is shocked by them. You really should be too. I’d love to welcome you as an ally in our defense of the separation of church and state, and I hope that even if we have to agree to disagree, you would be able to support our position as defenders of the constitution. That document defines our nation, and the modern concept of freedom as we know it (worldwide). Please don’t refer to me as being a narrow-minded agenda-driven 501c3 schemer. I’m much more than that, and I’m extremely proud of all of the people that I serve with.

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We’ve been extremely grateful to the supportive letters, emails, comments, and phone calls that have been pouring in since last week’s devastating news. I’ve always encouraged open and frank discussion here, and my moderation has been extremely light. I’ve found that for the most part, even when people disagree, the people who comment here at least take the time to read a little about what we are doing before they post.

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  • Lois Winkler

    Beautiful response, Justin. You are magnanimous, gracious and firm.

    What a lesson in opening your mouth before you open your eyes.

    Did you see that great YouTube of Richard Dawkins reading his anti-fan mail? It was hilarious, especially with the soft, homey lighting. I wish you would consider doing the same so we could share in the ill will that is pointed your way.

  • beerslayer

    All I can say, Justin, is that you were a lot nicer than I probably would have been. There are few things in life that peeve me as much as willful ignorance like that exhibited by your complainant.

  • Ryan Cunningham

    Justin, you’ve done an amazing job. You’ve been spectacularly patient, incredibly respectful, and you’ve paid meticulous attention to detail. This should be obvious to any fair minded person reading what you’ve posted over the past few months. You’ve worked extremely hard, and it’s been inspiring to see.

    Whoever wrote that post had some irrelevant axe to grind. Your response took her arguments apart with surgical precision, but please don’t let petty criticism from an internet nobody upset you. It’s a lot harder to try to build something positive in the face of adversity than it is to type sniping remarks into a comment box. I can’t improve on Teddy Roosevelt’s words on this subject:

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    Stay inspired. Our country needs people like you!

    • Justin Griffith

      Thank you very much. That quotation is quite inspirational, and I hadn’t heard it before.

  • http://www.thegodvirus.net Darrel Ray

    Justin: Many of us are dumbstruck by the refusal. WE ARE BEHIND YOU 100%. As a taxpaying citizen I am incensed that our views are being discriminated against in the military. Please let people know what we can do to help you. Who might we write, call, or email. Or any other action we can do.

    Thanks for your tremendous effort. You have gone where no one else dared go.

    Dr. Darrel W. Ray

    • Justin Griffith

      You all can expect a big post with exact details on what to do to fight back to hit tomorrow morning. Names, addresses, and phone numbers will be provided, as well as a plan of action.

      I’m pretty sure one of our members had just recommended one of your books for our Military Atheists & Secular Humanists (M*A*S*H) meetup group at Fort Bragg. We have a monthly book club, in addition to many other types of meetups. Thank you for reaching out, and I’d just like to let you know that there are fans of yours here in the military community that shaped this Rock Beyond Belief thing.

      It *almost* happened man. And we aren’t going down without a fight.

  • Chip

    It baffles the mind sometimes doesn’t it. Well done Justin. I’m with beerslayer, you were a lot nicer than I would have been.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    It’s absolutely breathtaking how misguided some people are. Just wanted to add my 2c to the others’, you were extremely gracious and thorough in your response to this.


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