By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
For the 2020 national election, I along with other clergy, was asked to train people to be “peacekeepers” at polling places. The political rancor was oozing and the threat of violence was real. We trained people how to act and react in the polling places; our goal was to have clergy and other interested participants de-escalate situations if need be, and not have anyone call the police.
As the 2022 mid-terms are approaching, we are being asked to serve in that capacity as well – to train new people and re-train those who have already been trained but need a refresher, but I am not willing – at least at this point – to participate.
Things are a lot worse now than they were in 2020. We are learning a lot about the depth and width of the Jan. 6 insurrection, and it is troubling; people at the very top are being exposed for their role in the attempt to overthrow the government, and, though some of the “boots on the ground” participants have been arrested, tried and convicted, the fact is that people at the top have not been held accountable.
Add to that the increased determination to have the right to hold onto guns – all guns – including the deadly assault weapons that have been used by shooters to mow down old people in a grocery store, children in a Texas elementary school and people attending a July 4 parade, and the reality of the threats we are facing – with government and law enforcement protecting those who kill instead of those who stand to be killed – and it feels like “peacekeeping” as we did it before will be ineffective.
With the threat of people with assault weapons showing up near polling places – and police “nearby” but watching, not keeping them away, there is a question that arises: how do “we the people” protect ourselves in this heavily armed country? Who exists to protect us?
Instead of passing laws to get assault weapons (not all guns) off the streets, legislatures are passing laws including making learning to shoot a graduation requirement and training teachers to shoot as well. The thirst for gun violence is only growing, according to The Washington Post.
I keep wondering how in the schools, for example, how a teacher with a gun makes everyone more safe? Does the teacher keep an automatic weapon under or in his/her desk? It would have to be readily available because snipers don’t give warnings. They come in shooting – and killing.
So, if state legislatures, for example, made it “ok” for people to carry weapons at polling, what would that achieve? They presumably would not be expecting a shooter to show up, but if one did, many people would be either injured or killed before defensive shooting could take place.
Many of the people who are calling themselves “patriots” are in reality proponents of an America made up of White males. They call themselves “Christian,” but they are not, as they ignore the words of the Christ. They are, however, nationalists, many of whom carry Nazi flags and who are calling for a second Civil War in this country. They want an America where men totally dominate in every aspect of all our lives. They want to get rid of Black and Brown people, many immigrants, Jews and Muslims, and they do not care about the rights of women – including their own. Many in their ranks are former and current military personnel and law enforcement officers.
So, who is going to protect those who go to the polls?
During the ‘60s, there was violence, and it was bad, but it was violence of a different sort. There were dogs and firehoses, and police officers on horses and on foot, wielding batons to beat those who were peacefully advocating for the right to vote and for an end of segregation.
There were no assault weapons.
A group of us are meeting next week to discuss how to move forward. Nobody should have to be “in fear for their lives” just because they are standing in line to vote.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at email@example.com.