Intolerant Demands for Tolerance at Fort Riley
I live in Orange Beach, Alabama. On a recent Saturday afternoon, there was an announced gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. I did not attend. I didn’t write a letter about it. I didn’t threaten to sue the City of Orange Beach or the County Board of Supervisors. I just didn’t go.
I don’t ride motorcycles and am not particularly comfortable driving my car near someone who is, but I learned a long time ago that everyone is not like me. Even my children understand this simple fact of life. In fact, by the time they were in third grade, both boys were aware that other people were not required to think or act like them. That, they learned, was part of living in a free society and it was one of the reasons America was great.
Last week in Kansas, Ft. Riley had a Prayer Breakfast scheduled for June 6th. Then, they didn’t. The “why” is more than a bit unsettling.
Jerry Boykin was an original member of the Army’s elite fighting unit, Delta Force. Later in his lengthy career, he was awarded a third star to match the two he had already earned. At that point, General Boykin served for five years as our Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Today, Boykin is 68 years old. Long retired from the military, he was invited to speak at Ft. Riley’s Prayer Breakfast. General Boykin is — as one would hope a Prayer Breakfast speaker might be — a man of strong faith. Apparently, however, that faith is a bit too strong for some.
Several days ago, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a protest with base leadership at Ft. Riley calling the old general “homophobic, Islamaphobic, and a fundamental Christian extremist.”
According to MRFF founder Mickey Weinstein, his organization received 131 complaints about General Boykin. Speaking to a reporter from the Army Times, Weinstein said, “I have clients of ours weeping on the phone.”
Seriously? Weeping? (Just wait until the whole “gnashing of teeth” thing is added.)
Anyway, get this: At the behest of 131 people — some of whom were apparently so shaken by the possible appearance of a retired man giving a speech — Ft. Riley folded like a cheap suit. Without weapons or even a threat of violence, 131 complainers went up against a 100,000 acre military installation with a population of more than 25,000 personnel. And it took them less than 24 hours to have General Boykin cancelled.
Ft. Riley announced the Prayer Breakfast would be rescheduled in the future with a different speaker. This decision was made before any of the Prayer Breakfast ticketholders even knew there was an issue. Was their opinion considered? Of course not.
I wish only to make this point: While it is obvious to many of us that the 131 who demand tolerance are themselves incredibly intolerant, we continue to be what they insist we are not — tolerant. And if we are not careful, we will tolerate the demise of most things we hold dear until common sense, too, becomes a rarity.
Need we remind ourselves that we are the majority? Or perhaps that doesn’t matter. After all, world history has shown again and again that societal disasters are almost always lead by a power mad minority of the population that has been enabled and encouraged by the apathy or disbelief of the majority.
Right now, today, we are providing a blueprint for future generations on exactly how a majority population allows itself to be bullied into submission. My friends, if we do not begin to stand up in large, visible, vocal numbers, that blueprint will yield for posterity the ugly details of America’s downfall. Sadly, our generation is in the process of proving how it is possible for a majority of otherwise rational and productive people to inadvertently yield their leadership to a small group they already know to be not only misguided, but destructive as well.
If we do not find the courage to change course quickly, someone, someday, will write the story of how between two and three hundred million people subsequently enabled a small number of intolerant people to steer everyone into a ditch.
The irony, of course, will be that it will all have been done in the name of tolerance.
Andy Andrews is New York Times bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer, and How Do You Kill 11 Million People?