BTT #24: Life after Hate

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Have you ever met a monster…?
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Have you ever been a monster…?
Have you ever met a monster?  Have you ever been a monster, and if so how did you know?  Have you ever thought about what it takes to find out?
The following is an excerpt from an interview by David Greene with Christian Picciolini on National Public Radio.  Mr. Picciolini is a former white supremacist skinhead.  He has undergone some transformative experiences, and has since co-founded a group that reaches out to those wishing to separate from violent organizations and combats the spread of hate and violence though a platform of personal outreach and support.  His story humbled and amazed me and I very much want to share it with y’all.  A complete transcript of the interview can be found at:
Here are a few snippets:

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: One day I was standing in an alley at 14 years old and I was smoking a joint. And a guy drove up the alley and stopped six inches from me. And when he got out of the car, he walked towards me. He grabbed the joint from my mouth, looked me in the eyes and said don’t you know that that’s what the Communists and the Jews want you to do to keep you docile?

GREENE: He had found a community built on hatred. And he immersed himself in it, spread its message, recruited others. He says he doesn’t really know the extent of his influence. He’ll never stop wondering…  For Christian Picciolini, breaking with that life came about as a kind of gradual awakening…

PICCIOLINI: So I was 18 years old, I believe. And some skinhead friends and I were drinking. And late one night around midnight, we walked into a McDonald’s. And there were some black teenagers in this McDonald’s being drunk. I screamed that it was my McDonald’s and that they had to leave. They ran across the street. We chased after them.  When we caught one of the black teenagers, we beat him viciously. And you couldn’t see or recognize him as a human being his face was so swollen. And as his eyes were shut but he managed to open his eyes at one point as I was kicking him. And I connected with his eyes. And for the first time in those eight years that I was involved, the reality and the consequences of my actions came into focus for a split second.

Over time and through some very painful trials and realizations, Picciolini was transformed to an advocate of peace, and it all started with a realization of his shared humanity in some fashion with his victim.  It is my prayer that we can all come to view each other more completely as brothers and sisters in humanity, that we can be accepting and loving of one another and abandon all forms of the violence that divides us.  We even need to come to see those perpetrators of violence as fellow brothers and sisters who can change and be transformed into powerful voices for love, truth, and reconciliation.

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If you were a monster, what would it take for you to know it?  (Pictures are from Cica Ghosts exhibit “Spiders” and have nothing really to do with the topic of this post)

 

Full disclosure from Lona- this Alabama resident (Lona, me hi there!) personally believes that Confederate Statuary belongs in museums that place the terror and violence of the oppressive Confederate system into the proper perspective rather than being feted in the Public Square.  We have had too little truth and reconciliation in our country and that is why these inanimate monuments survive and continue to arouse such sorrow and controversy.  But as we confront the legacy and impact of Confederate statuary, the focus on the granite faces staring down from frozen  horses seem less urgent than the flesh and blood realities relating to the violence and bigotry that festers in the hearts and fists of our society.  We need to place an emphasis on the love and union that can beat in the very hearts of our humanity and that can tie us together.  Some of the most impactful work in this arena is done by caring people who have the capability to reach out to the one and the few on a personal level.

Picciolini has written a book called “Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead”  buy it, I am going to order a copy for myself today.  The group he has co-founded is called Life after Hate.  For some strange reason which I find incomprehensible, it has had all of its rather modest federal grant support money cancelled by the current administration.  They need our support in their critically important work.  I invite you to visit their site at:

lifeafterhate.org

Give them a visit, donate (it is easy to do so).  Thank you Christian and God bless.

Love,

Lona Gynt

All rights reserved for text by Lona Gynt, August 2017:  Except for the excerpt from NPR transcript which is short, focused, and falls under fair use criteria.  NPR has no affiliation or responsibility for the content on my website.  Although I have invited people to visit Life after Hate website and to consider donation, I have no affiliation with their organization and the above is offered as a personal invitation to interested individuals and is not part of an organized fund-raising campaign.

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