Friday, July 28, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is A Verb!

My wife and I are parents to two men who became Eagle Scouts.  Like other parents, I attended troop meetings with our sons.  Like other parents, I trusted adult leaders to help instill the values of duty, honor, and service in our sons.  So I remember joining with our sons and their fellow scouts as they recited the following words at every troop meeting.

On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times; 
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Those are the words of the Scout Oath.

Our sons and their fellow Boy Scouts also recited the following words at every Scout meeting.
A Scout is:
  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean,
  • and Reverent.
Those are the words of the Scout Law.

By even the most charitable analysis, Donald John Trump’s conduct – as President of the United States and before he entered that office – violates the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  His personal history does not demonstrate commitment to serving our country, God, or other people.  By no means would anyone associate Donald Trump with what it means to be “morally straight.” 

Donald Trump is not trustworthy.  He is not loyal.  His conduct towards persons in need is not helpful.  He is not friendly, courteous, or kind.  He is obedient to nothing except his self-centeredness.  Trump is not cheerful, but bellicose. He is not thrifty, but extravagant.  He is not brave, but a cowardly bully.  His personal and business dealings are not clean.  Mr. Trump can never be correctly considered reverent. 

In the less than 200 days that Donald Trump has occupied the office of President of the United States he has dishonored his office and those who honorably serve our nation.  He dishonored fallen members of the Central Intelligence Agency while standing before the wall that enshrines their service to the nation.  He dishonored the Constitution of the United States by issuing executive orders that discriminate against followers of Islam and persons from several nations with Islamic majority populations.  He dishonored the Federal Bureau of Investigation by firing former FBI Director Jim Comey because Comey refused to swear personal fealty to him.  He has dishonored transgender men and women who serve in the U.S. military along with their comrades and leaders.  His recent remarks during the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia violated everything Scouting represents. 

Mr. Trump’s behavior as president contradicts any sensible understanding of principled leadership.  We should not expect his behavior to improve.  After all, Donald Trump is 70 years old.  If he were a 7 year old, we would term him a troubled, if not delinquent, child.  Mr. Trump is not a child.  Donald Trump is merely an untrustworthy, disloyal, unhelpful, mean-spirited, discourteous, cruel, undisciplined, bellicose, profligate, cowardly, crooked, and irreverent old man. 

For parents like me who are proud of the role Scouting served in helping our children become people of honor, Mr. Trump’s conduct during the Boy Scout Jamboree was an insult to every noble value and attribute represented by Scouting.  I hope the Boy Scouts of America will not extend another invitation to Mr. Trump.  Our youth and their adult leaders deserve much better from the President of the United States. 

For that matter, so does the rest of our nation and world.

Monday, July 3, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb
July 3, 2017

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Samuel DuBose.  Philando Castille.  Terrence Crutcher.  Alton Sterling.  Walter Scott.  Freddie Gray.  Rekia Boyd.  Tamir Rice.  Sandra Bland.  Oscar Grant, John Crawford IV.  Eric Garner.  Michael Brown, Jr., Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride. Shantel Davis.  Kendric McDade.  Kimani Gray.  Amadou Diallo. 

When I think about the 4th of July …

According to a June 25, 2017 Washington Post news article by Cleve Wootson (, police in the United States have killed 461 people so far this year.  Twenty-five percent of the people killed were black people.  During 2016, police killed 963 people.  Twenty-four percent (24%) of the people killed were black people.  Wootson’s article covered the shooting of a black off-duty veteran police officer by a white on-duty police officer.

When I think about the 4th of July, I think about the ongoing state-sponsored, sanctioned, and sustained slaughter and other acts of terrorism against black, brown, and poor people by law enforcement agents and other vigilante actors with the same moral outrage expressed by Frederick Douglass concerning the abomination of human slavery when, in 1852, he delivered a historic address titled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July

When I think about the 4th of July, I remember twelve year old Tamir Rice, shot dead by a Cleveland, Ohio policeman while playing in a public park with a toy pistol. 

When I think about the 4th of July, I think about Eric Garner, choked to death by Staten Island, New York police as he gasped “I can’t breathe.” 

When I think about the 4th of July, I think about the men, women, and children who are systematically and routinely abused, slaughtered, and terrorized by sworn and paid agents of governments whose leaders profess to believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 

When I think about the 4th of July, I ponder and wonder how self-proclaimed “evangelical Christian” congregations of all denominations and other names claim faithfulness to the God of the Exodus while supporting policies and police practices that mistreat hard-working and peaceful immigrants and their families. 

When I think of the 4th of July, I reflect on the hypocrisy of flag-waving religious people who profess to celebrate “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” even as they have supported policies, practices, and people responsible for making the United States the world’s leading nation which imprisons its people. 

When I think about the 4th of July, I think about the wicked notions of patriotism and religion that validate mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of this society under the guise of “religious liberty.”

When I think about the 4th of July, I reflect on the hypocrites who insist that this nation believes in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” while supporting policies, practices, and politicians (including the current President of the United States) who demonize followers of Islam. 

When I think about the 4th of July, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” I remember the loud silence of white churches and preachers concerning the ongoing domestic and international travesties of justice practiced by this nation under the guise of “war on drugs,” and “war on terrorism.”   

These evils exist because white congregations and their clergy tolerate, condone, or are otherwise complicit in them. 

The slaughter of black, brown, and poor white people by law enforcement officers would cease if white congregations and their clergy denounced it. 

Demonization and discrimination endorsed and perpetrated against our Muslim and LGBTQ neighbors would end if white congregations and clergy opposed it. 

The United States would not be the largest developed nation that incarcerates its people if white congregations and clergy truly believe in and are determined to live up to the Declaration of Independence claim about a “self-evident truth” that “all men [persons] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

So, in the same way that Frederick Douglass was disgusted when congregations and clergy flouted their piety through hymn-singing and sermon preaching while black people were kidnapped, beaten, raped, murdered, traded, robbed of the value of their work, and brutalized during slavery, I am disgusted when I think about the 4th of July.

I am disgusted about flag-waving, hymn-singing, and Pledge of Allegiance chanting congregations, clergy, business people, and politicians who are engaged in what I consider naked and ceremonial demonstrations of and devotion to white religious nationalism disguised as patriotism when I think about the 4th of July

And I recall the words Frederick Douglass uttered in 1852.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery [now add abusive, homicidal, and terroristic law enforcement behavior, mistreatment of immigrants and religious minorities, discrimination against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer neighbors, mass incarceration,  and other injustices] I have mentioned in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence [sic], and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! Be warned! Be warned! 

Fourth of July festiveness, food, and other hoopla do not change what I know about systemic, longstanding, and ongoing mistreatment suffered by people of color, poor people, workers, immigrants, religious minorities, my LGBTQ neighbors, and so many other vulnerable populations in this nation. 

I refuse to think and behave like a child who can be plied with, made content, and fooled by ice cream, hot dogs, watermelon, barbecue, fireworks, and patriotic music, speeches, and songs.

I simply wonder how much more time will pass and how much more injustice and suffering will be perpetrated and endured before people who claim to be followers of Jesus behave like prophets of divine truth, love, and justice in the face of glaring and persistent expressions of despotism and tyranny by this society. 

How long, O God?  How long?