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Sarah Whitman: In the wake of Charlottesville, America must do better

More than 80 people attended an event at St. Patrick Catholic Church aimed at promoting a civil dialogue regarding immigration. The event occurred a day after the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Va., created by a clash between white supremacists and counter protesters.

SARAH WHITMAN | Times

More than 80 people attended an event at St. Patrick Catholic Church aimed at promoting a civil dialogue regarding immigration. The event occurred a day after the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Va., created by a clash between white supremacists and counter protesters.

TAMPA — Charlottesville happened.

Nearly 250 years into our country's story, Americans maintain the right to say and even do what to me (and I pray you), seem like unthinkable things.

I do not question why people can march a campus shouting racial slurs and divisive rhetoric. I question why they chose to do so. For the love of God, why? That is what came to mind when I saw the photographs and read the stories.

Why do so many people take pride in hate? And how do they claim violence in the name of a higher power? I cannot answer these questions. I can however say this: The God I believe in weeps for the broken and humble. The God I believe in loves in spite of. The God I believe in is bigger than politics, flags and malformed attitudes.

America remains a child, born with promise but still learning. In this imperfect world, where people, like lands, rise and fall, we forge ahead as a rebellious prodigy. We can do better. We can be better. But it requires of us something difficult: to put aside the need to be right. It requires unity.

On Aug. 13, the Diocese of St. Petersburg held an event promoting open and civil dialogue regarding immigration. More than 80 people attended the talk at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tampa. Men and women shared stories of their families coming to the United States. They expressed conflicting opinions without rage.

"When you create a dialogue, it creates empathy," said Sabrina Burton Schultz, Director of Life Ministry for the Diocese. "You can be civil even in disagreement."

The Diocese began planning the event about a year ago. As organizers trained facilitators Aug. 12, they watched the violence erupting in Charlottesville. The conversation became, if possible, even more important, Burton Schultz said.

So how do we move forward? I don't know. The words "the future" are striking at this point. Three years ago, I did not imagine a future where a White Nationalist movement stood emergent from the shadows. I did not imagine an American divided on basic civil rights.

I only know those of us who view the incidents in Charlottesville as inexcusable must exercise our rights as well. We must continue to speak out and unite our voices for the good of our country.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]

Reacting to Charlottesville

Below are excerpts from statements from different faith-based organizations about the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Va.

"It is time to send a message to those who would support a culture of hatred, fear and xenophobia (specifically White Nationalism and White Supremacy). It is time for us to share the antidote for those who would poison the minds of our children. The message is that your time is up and we are not willing to let you divide us or run our country into chaos. The antidote is love, acceptance, courage, non-violence and dialogue."

Joran Slane Oppelt, Interfaith Tampa Bay.

"I believe that any form of white superiority or any other form of racial supremacy is toxic evil that is totally at odds with God's glory in creating all of humanity in his own image. Worse still, it is completely contradictory with the message of the good news of Jesus Christ, where God's saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ's death and resurrection is offered to all. It is impossible to hold to any form of racial superiority and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Tom Eichem, Executive Pastor Bay life Church, Brandon

"It's hard to believe that in the year 2017, we still have to speak out against Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, and proud, open racists, but we do. Those who came together for the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville represent the worst of our society. They stand for hate and oppression. They stand against the diversity and inclusivity that make our country so great. And, obviously, those who backed up their hateful rhetoric with acts of violence against peaceful counter-protesters are simply beyond the pale.

Jews are among the many people who have learned, personally and dearly, that this kind of hate can spread so easily. When it is unleashed against one people, it won't be long before it is aimed at all people or, at least, at all people who don't fit the racists' definition of true Americans. So, this is a time for all people of good conscience, from across the spectrum of race, religion, sexual orientation, political ideology, nationality and every other category which we use to describe ourselves, to come together. We must come together to speak up for acceptance and unity, and to speak out against those who preach vile hatred."

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg, Congregation Beth Am, Tampa

"On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm"

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops via St. Stephen's Catholic Church, Valrico



"It's hard to believe that in the year 2017, we still have to speak out against Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, and proud, open racists, but we do. Those who came together for the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville represent the worst of our society. They stand for hate and oppression. They stand against the diversity and inclusivity that make our country so great. And, obviously, those who backed up their hateful rhetoric with acts of violence against peaceful counter-protesters are simply beyond the pale.

Jews are among the many people who have learned, personally and dearly, that this kind of hate can spread so easily. When it is unleashed against one people, it won't be long before it is aimed at all people or, at least, at all people who don't fit the racists' definition of true Americans. So, this is a time for all people of good conscience, from across the spectrum of race, religion, sexual orientation, political ideology, nationality and every other category which we use to describe ourselves, to come together. We must come together to speak up for acceptance and unity, and to speak out against those who preach vile hatred."

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg, Congregation Beth Am, Tampa

"On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm"

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops via St. Stephen's Catholic Church, Valrico

"I believe that any form of white superiority or any other form of racial supremacy is toxic evil that is totally at odds with God's glory in creating all of humanity in his own image. Worse still, it is completely contradictory with the message of the good news of Jesus Christ, where God's saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ's death and resurrection is offered to all. It is impossible to hold to any form of racial superiority and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Tom Eichem, Executive Pastor Bay life Church, Brandon

Sarah Whitman: In the wake of Charlottesville, America must do better

08/17/17 [Last modified: Thursday, August 17, 2017 1:09pm]
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