On Tuesday, December 15 in the middle of a very busy staff meeting filled day in the week before Christmas I schlepped down to the L.A. County Supervisors meeting to speak in support of a motion by Supervisor Hilda Solis opposing Islamophobia and stating -- in part -- that we as the County of Los Angeles:
Recognize that the terrorists who committed these acts, motivated by violent religious and political extremism are to blame, and that no religion or race or ethnicity is responsible for these acts, and that fear-based stereotyping and scapegoating creates an atmosphere conducive to Islamophobia, xenophobia, discrimination, hate, and bigotry.Here's what I said:
I am the Reverend Susan Russell – a native of Los Angeles and an Episcopal priest and pastor from All Saints Church in Pasadena. As you might imagine, the week before Christmas is a busy time for a parish priest – and yet when I got the call today to come speak in support of this important motion I didn’t hesitate to accept. I was honored to be asked and heartbroken that it is once again necessary -- in the wake of the San Bernardino tragedy -- to rise to speak against the scapegoating of our Muslim brothers and sisters.Delighted that the motion was adopted unanimously. If you're an L.A. County resident you might take a minute to thank your Supervisor. Every little bit helps!
I am also a mom. One of my sons is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and he was home with us the week after Thanksgiving. As we watched the news together – first the tragic news of the shooting and then the terrible news of the Islamophobic backlash -- he made one thing perfectly clear:
When he swore to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” that meant defending the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment from being jettisoned by those who blame a whole faith community for the violent extremism of a few. It also meant challenging those who insist that the Second Amendment is so sacrosanct that even restricting access to assault weapons by people on the terror-watch no-fly list would somehow undermine the Constitutional protections our Founding Fathers intended.
“That’s not what I signed up for, Mom,” he said. “We’re better than that.”
I’m proud of my son. And I’m also proud of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors for this resolution sending the message that we will take concrete steps to stand against the victimizing and scapegoating Muslim Americans.
When I was in seminary they made me take Greek – and one thing I remember is that the root word of the Greek word angel is “messenger.” And so it seems appropriate in this week before Christmas that the County of Los Angeles – the County of Angels – would send out to the rest of our state, nation and world this message of support for these core values that make our nation great.