Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Who is Who in American History

Once Upon a Time ...

There was a group of Americans who were being targeted by both reckless mobs and laws of the land. They were attacked by both militants and government officials. These attacks were based largely on the perceived tenants of the group. For reasons real or imaginary, most US citizens saw this group as a dangerous threat. The media did not help in these matters and was regularly printing one sided and fictitious reports. The group countered this bias when they created their own newspaper. 

As for the laws aimed at harming these individuals, they were harsh and extreme -- making it clear to members of the group that they were not welcome in certain areas of the country. Of course, there were some sympathizers and actions of kindness were shown on a few occasions. But the vitriol spewed at them was real, not imagined. 

This group of Americans had a creed that was readily available to anyone who might have cared to learn what the group's core beliefs were. Members of the organization eagerly tried to recruit new followers and befriend sympathizers. One of the group's core messages was that of service, they wanted all members to show an undying brotherly love for our entire human family. The group lived this principle by feeding and sheltering the poor and the broken. 

At various times there was dissent within the organization itself. Some members found fault with leadership and this led to brief moments of chaos from within. The stress that strained this group is real, not imagined. Unfortunately, at the height of persecution, leaders of the group broke the law. These crimes led to their eventual murders. Others within the group also committed crimes, even the shedding of innocent blood.  Opinions vary on whether or not these crimes were sanctioned by the organization itself. Some argue it was a few bad actors, others argue the leaders told members of the group to attack. 

In the end, this group was forced out of the country. They were stripped of their constitutional rights. They were attacked for exercising their first and second amendment rights. They sought due process and on a few occasions were found innocent of all wrongdoing. At other times, due process was denied and their leaders were murdered. To this day, their organization is viewed with question -- but productive conversation can lead to sympathy and understanding.

Now, who am I talking about? Mormon Pioneers? The Black Panther Party? Or both?

Obviously I am a proud descendant of the former group. I know my ancestors were misunderstood and mistreated. I know they suffered at the hands of hatred. As I matured I learned their history had some shaky moments. The group had financial hardships that divided them. Leaders broke laws. Leaders fired bullets back. These realities do not affect my faith. I accept that our histories are nuanced, and I can take these nuances head on and find beauty in all the layers. All the layers of our history and all the layers of the human experience -- they tell a story. And I love stories.

The story of the Black Panther party is extremely different from my own Pioneer heritage. We're talking different century, different approach, different goals -- so many differences. Most notably, I would never align myself with an activist movement like the Panthers. But because I came to the conversation seeking truth, willing to put aside my own biases and judgments in a search for truth, I also found sympathy and understanding. I saw all the layers of the human story, and I fell in love with the controversy and the heartache.

As a child I was constantly told to show others the kindness I hoped to receive from them. I know if someone were to give an earnest look into my Pioneer heritage they would walk away both confused by the blemishes and moved by the power of the human spirit. It isn't one or the other. When we examine others' stories all we are required to do is show the same kindness we'd like to receive in return. We may even find we have more in common than we think.

1 comment:

Pa said...

Alizabeth, this is excellent. You need to enter it in some type of journalism forum. I am so impressed with your thought, your intelligent and touching conclusions. I am so proud to be your father. Spot on, sis! XOXOXOXOXO Pa

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