On Being Surrounded by Proud Boys (Part 1)

Last week, we participated in a Vote Common Good rally in my neighborhood.

Over two hours before the event, a large group of Proud Boys and their allies descended on the venue and virtually blocked the entrance. Their trucks were bedecked with Trump flags, Don’t Tread on Me flags, thin blue line flags, and “No More Bullsh*t” flags.

Police had set up orange cones to assure that our legally permitted rally could proceed … but getting to the cones wasn’t easy!

Anyone interested in rallying around “Faith, Hope, and Love” would have been confused by the visibility of the Proud Boys at the entrance. I was so impressed with some local Democratic Women’s club members, some of them elderly, who marched right through the crowd to join us. (Here’s a report from one of them.)

There are many stories to be told of that day. (You can watch the video here – https://www.votecommongood.com/live/) Suffice it to say for now that the group protesting our rally treated us to a barrage of obscenities, racist statements and hand gestures, threatening comments, interruption by bullhorn and car horn, insults, false accusations, false information, and intimidation. That wasn’t right or good, and that kind of intimidating behavior shouldn’t be minimized for a second, especially because our current president has encouraged it and in fact demonstrated it himself, and it has already led to violence and death, and if we aren’t careful, worse could still be to come.

Members of the VCG team (especially the amazing hip-hop artist Genesis Be) courageously called out the wrongdoing and modeled, in word and deed, a better way.

In the midst of the chaos, this one small story emerged and it seems worth sharing now. It comes from our friend Christine:

Sitting there observing the gathering of Us and Them, I recalled the story of Jesus preparing breakfast by the sea for his mates . . .  an unexpected grace.

“Hey, we have donuts!’  I said to myself . . .

I bound across the orange – coned separation margin set up by the police.Armed with a box of fresh Dunkin Donuts and “Good Morning” greetings . . . smiles are returned from the other side.  And we begin brief conversations on the “Whys” of being there . . . being present with them. 

“We’re all human beings” I say.  “We are all bear the Goodness of God within us . . . ”  The Proud Boys & Patriots, men and women, offer genuine rounds of thanks, disbelief and smiles.  As I turn to go back to my team a woman looks me in the eye and proudly states  ” Wow, you got balls!”.  I just grin and remark how we are in this together for the Common Good! 

An hour later a young woman approaches me from the other side and offers me a bottle of flavored water.  She says, “I thought you might be hot.  I just came from the 7-11 and maybe you might like this.  I thought of what you did earlier.”  It was followed by a brief heart to heart and a hug.

As we were packing up our equipment, post rally, one of the very loud ranters came across the police margin and said “I just want to come and say thank you for coming over and the donuts.  I really appreciated it and wanted you to know it.”

There is a Banqueting Table.  And it’s open . . . filled with many graces.  But you may have to cross the margins. 

Thanks, Christine, for your beautiful example of crossing boundaries to demonstrate the common good. It’s too easy in difficult times to forget one another’s humanity, as Pope Francis reminds us in his new encyclical.

There’s something else not to forget, and that is that American racists are organizing and basking in the glow of presidential affirmation. So please be sure to read Part 2, here.