OR Guardsman: ‘They’re Lucky We Aren’t Executing Them’

OR Guardsman: ‘They’re Lucky We Aren’t Executing Them’ June 26, 2018

This is one of those times when I am simultaneously moved by the outpouring of human compassion toward the children and families separated at the border and appalled by man’s inhumanity to man over the same situation. For an example of the latter, look at what was said by a member of the Oregon National Guard on the Facebook fundraiser page for the victims:

“Waste of money,” a Facebook account belonging to a Salem, Ore., man named Gerod Martin posted on the fundraiser’s page last Wednesday, according to images saved by the Oregonian. “They’re lucky we aren’t executing them.”

The comments drew increased scrutiny because Martin’s page included pictures of him in military uniform. “Just a young buck serving his country,” he wrote on the page, the Oregonian reported.

The Oregon National Guard confirmed Martin is a private first class with the guard, KATU reported. Maj. Stephen Bomar told the station Martin will face punishment for his comments about executing migrants.

“That was just a horrific comment,” Bomar told KATU. “I think we all saw what it was. Even if he is not showing military uniform, that is just a horrific comment.”

He should be dishonorably discharged from the National Guard. He should also be forbidden from owning weapons of any kind for the rest of his life. He’s shown that he is far too prone to hatred and violence for either privilege. I simply don’t understand how anyone can be like this. It’s all the more disturbing because these are not people who are just devoid of compassion. I have no doubt he shows plenty of compassion and empathy in his life, but only toward select people. Only toward members of his tribe.

If he were just a psychopath, incapable of feeling such things, it might make more sense to me. But as usual, I’m at a loss to understand this kind of tribalism. In a speech given less than a month after I was born, Martin Luther Kind explained why he had expanded his message and his protests to include not only racial segregation but also to include opposition to the Vietnam War and a message of economic justice.

My third reason moves to even deeper level of awareness, but it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I walked among the desperate, rejected, angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion, while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?”-and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace-I answer that I have worked too long and hard now against segregated accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible. It must also be said that it would be rather absurd to work passionately and unrelentingly for integrated schools and not be concerned with the survival of a world in which to be integrated.

He also famously said that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It’s only within our tribes that most of us show any moral concern at all, but it seems to me that we define tribes in all the wrong ways nearly all of the time. We place ourselves in tribes based on arbitrary trait we had nothing to do with — race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality. But what do I have in common with someone merely because we share the same amount of melanin in our skin? Or the same place of birth? Or the same disbelief in god? Those things mean so very little, really. Or they should mean so little.

Instead, for most people, they mean virtually everything. That is the sum total of their identity and they feel the need to protect the tribe at all costs, which usually means attacking every other “rival” tribe. I reject all of that. “The World is my country,” Thomas Paine said, “all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” The world need not be a zero-sum game. Treating immigrants as fellow members of our human tribe costs us nothing; indeed, doing so preserves something that matters far more than our more limited conceptions of tribal identification. It preserves that self-awareness that allows us to recognize our shared humanity. I only hope we learn that lesson before we destroy one another.

Browse Our Archives