THEY'RE ONLY WORDS, RIGHT?

by David Sisler

"Words, words, words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?"

That poetic lament of Eliza Doolittle to Freddie Eynsford-Hill, in Lerner and Loewe's classic musical, My Fair Lady, was about love.

"Tell me no dreams filled with desire," Eliza sang. "If you're on fire, show me!"

There is a time for more than talking, when a couple has made a life- time commitment to each other in marriage. In spite of today's gutter-level standards, marriage and monogamy remain God's standard but today I am thinking about love's opposite, hate, and in one of its ugliest forms: prejudice.

Celebrating "National Brotherhood Week," satirist Tom Lehrer sang, "Oh the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Protestants hate the Catholics. And the Hindus hate the Moslems. And everybody hates the Jews."

It is relatively easy to talk about love and do nothing more. On the other hand, it is frighteningly easy to talk about hatred, and then do more, much more.

Buford O. Furrow, Jr., gave us some words. His shooting of five people, three of them children, at a Jewish day care center was, he said, "a wake-up call to America to kill Jews." Evidently some people heard his call because within days two synagogues were desecrated.

Prejudice, as Mr. Lehrer so powerfully satirizes, is about more than religion. Let's not forget good old-fashioned racial hatred. Sing it Tom!

"Oh, the white folks hate the black folks, and the black folks hate the white folks. To hate all but the right folks, is an old established rule."

John William King did more than utter words. He murdered James Byrd, Jr., a 49- year-old black man by dragging him behind a pickup truck until his body was literally torn apart.

"How deep is the hatred?" Bob Herbert asked in a New York Times editorial, commenting on the case.

After being sentenced to death King was asked if he had anything to say to the relatives of his victim. "King, a 24-year-old white supremacist, did indeed have something to say," Herbert wrote. "Grinning, he assured all within earshot that Mr. Byrd's grieving survivors were welcome to perform a sex act on him."

Five white men pleaded guilty to felony assault for a beating last year that left Lance Cpl. Carlos Colbert, a 21-year-old black Marine, paralyzed with a broken neck. One of the defendants, Jessie Lawson, at his sentencing, said Colbert was beaten because of his race.

Colbert was struck in the back of the neck by an unknown object and while the Marine lay crumpled on the ground, the five men stomped him. Witnesses testified the men repeatedly screamed racial epithets. The father of one of the defendants, however, said Colbert's beating was not a racial hate crime. It was merely a drunken brawl.

And it was the alcohol which taught them their colorful vocabulary, right?

Robert Neville, Jr. was found guilty and sentenced to death for kidnaping and killing Amy Robinson. Part of the evidence used to convict Neville was a videotaped interview he gave to a Texas TV station. Jurors saw Neville bragging that he, and an accomplice, used Ms. Robinson for target practice and then "busted out laughing" when she died.

Under oath, Neville said, "We was gonna go out and pick up a couple of guns and stuff like that and go out and shoot and kill a black girl." Amy Robinson, their "black" victim, a 19-year-old girl with a learning disability, was white.

I remember a man, in another state, telling me years ago, in total sincerity, "There is nothing at all wrong with black people. Every white man should own at least one." A woman who witnessed the conversation, outraged by the statement, responded before anyone else could speak, "You have a bad heart. What if you needed a transplant and the only heart available was from a black donor?" The man replied, "I'd rather have a pig's heart in me." The woman clipped back, "A pig's heart would be good for you. A pig is smarter than you are."

"Words, words, words. I'm so sick of words. I get words all day through, first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?"

Not any more, Eliza. No longer content with words, we kill people whose appearance is different from our own (from all sides of the racial spectrum), or whose worship is different from our own (from all sides of the religious spectrum), because we have been taught to hate. A Jew tried to teach us to stop, but we nailed him to a tree. That Crucified Man is still our only hope. But once we claim his name, we must begin to live his name.

-30-

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/4/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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