In the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, young activists went into the Dante-esque netherworld that was the state of Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote. For a hundred years, racist goons, often wearing the uniforms of police or state troopers, had used violence and intimidation to prevent black people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Three of the activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County by members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided by a Neshoba County Deputy Sherriff. Chaney was a black man from Mississippi and Goodman and Schwerner were whites from New York City.
At the funeral for Chaney, Dave Dennis, an activist and organizer, was asked to give a eulogy. He did not offer anodyne condolences or uplifting bromides. He gave an impromptu oration of raw power and searing anger. He pointed fingers and he named names. He called out the “good” people who did nothing just as much as the redneck wielders of guns, knives, and rope. Most of all, he called for people to stand up, to take a stand and say “No more!” and mean it. For those too lazy or timid to get mad, he said “God damn your souls.”
After yesterday’s massacre in Orlando, which obviously targeted gay people, we need a new Dave Dennis to stand up and get mad and damn us if we do not get mad too. We need someone to point fingers at every purveyor of homophobia and bigotry and make them squirm in the hot light of our anger. We must point to every foaming, lowbrow, knuckle-dragging hater as well as to the pious, mealy-mouthed hypocrites that claim to hate the sin while loving the sinner. We should scornfully disdain those who pretend to hide their hatred behind a banner of “religious freedom.” Voters need to repudiate elected degenerates and demagogues who attack transgender persons by screaming about voyeurs and pedophiles in the women’s room. We must make absolutely clear that the real perverts are the sanctimonious jerks who are obsessed with controlling other people’s sexuality. Insofar as religion promotes or justifies bigotry, we have to identify religion as one of the guilty parties, and not try to blame it all on social, economic, or political causes.
Stand up, all you Dave Dennises out there!