It was an oppressively hot day in the Ohio Valley. As always the fabrication shop was an oven. Johnny was bent over the jig table sweating away the day and as was his habit, his mind was obsessing over current events.
He kept thinking about the young man who is a blatantly racist homophobe that works with his girlfriend. Every evening she repeats a similar story at the dinner table telling him about how this guy openly insults every group he disapproves of while also insisting he will be a deputy sheriff like his old man.
He was also considering the conversation that he had with this older guy on his lunch break at work who out of the blue, tried to recruit him for the Klan. He later made the connection that after getting a flat top hair cut he must have looked like a racist so...
Johnny had realized earlier that a major problem in this country is indifference and this leads to people like his old co-worker feeling comfortable talking to him about the Klan. The man explained that although he doesn't really have a problem with black people , his father was a Klansman and that was kinda why he was also. He also mentioned as they spoke that the younger guys in the Klan are acting crazy. He mentioned how they are the vocal ones at the meetings who try to steer the opinions of the group to more violent resolution, resolutions such as going downtown to the Locker Room and spraying the place with gun fire. As his coworker and the older Klansmen don't speak up Johnny thought that indifference must also be a problem in the Klan.
Well as he thought these things it occurred to him if the Klan can so recruit people why cant he recruit people who might agree with him that this indifference is a major problem. So he thought for awhile about how to recruit. One on one doesn't really work cause it seems most the time he's preaching to the choir, or a worse scenario he talks to one of the unknown Klansmen about it and it screws his job up.
He had previously contacted some people through Facebook about this particular racist who wants to be a deputy sheriff and was pleasantly surprised about the positive reaction so that was encouraging. He thought maybe a rally would be good.
So he started considering what a rally would entail. At this point he was referring to it as "The Rally in My Head." He already realized that no one would attend a rally where he was ranting, especially a "Rally in My Head," these being very common lately and turn out is always low.
So he came up with the name "Revolution against Indifference." It sounded BIG. But he thought like any good rally he could generate some buzz with a famous guest speaker, but who? Then it occurred to him, he and Dave Chapelle have a mutual friend and as a bonus, he also lives in Ohio, so it seemed like a perfect guest speaker. As another bonus Johnny knew Dave has worked with an organization in New Orleans dedicated to anti-racist action called The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, and he has had the fortune to befriend some very active members of this organization so it seemed perfect.
So he contacted The Institute with his idea and after explaining everything like, it would certainly spread the influence of The Institute, certainly recruit some supporters, not to mention it seems like the racists are winning at the moment, and not just in Texas where they're supposedly killing District Attorneys but here in Marietta, Ohio where they're openly applying for sheriff jobs and the Klan is actively recruiting. They agreed it seemed like a good idea. Something had to be done to counteract this.
So everything was started in motion and the venue was chosen. A summer day in 2013 was miked on the calendar and Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta was booked. Along with the usual speakers like the mayor, county sheriff and local church leaders Johnny asked, since he was the original organizer of the idea that he may be allowed to introduce Dave Chapelle. The Institute thought it was a fine idea so on the night before the rally when he was introduced to Dave his pulse rate was high. Very high.
The next day as Johnny waited patiently in the wings, the Mayor finished his speech and a person from The Institute took the stage to introduce him. Before this his only public speaking was in a speech class at Columbus State, so he was more than a little nervous. He was hoping the A he got in the class would transfer to reality and he would kill them softly as Dave would say. He told himself repeatedly for god's sake don't say that you idiot!!
So he heard the announcer call his name and he walked out onto the stage to great cheers and applause. The knot in his throat was incredible he thought he would die but he cleared his throat and stepped up to the mic to thank everyone for participating. He thanked The Institute and all the support from friends. He jokingly thanked the mayor for being sober, which everyone seemed to think was hilarious, everyone except the mayor. As the chuckling died away he was struck with the idea that he had to say more. How often do you get a chance like this? So he composed his thoughts and began.
''Ellie Wiesel said the opposite of love is indifference and this is what influenced the name of this rally Revolution Against Indifference. As a young man I had a hard time finding a role model so I decided to use my love of history to find one. I decided to pick people in history I admired, learn about them and try to emulate them. This sounded like a sensible thing to do.
The first name I chose was Martin Luther King Jr., a solid choice in retrospect. While reading and studying about this man I found out that one of the men who most influenced King was a man named Gandhi. So I decided to follow this thread and after reading and studying about Gandhi's autobiography Experiments with Truth I discovered that one of the men that most influenced Gandhi was a man named Thoreau.
So of course I began to study and learn about what this Thoreau had learned from his life. He had his own experiments with truth and he compiled what he had learned in a book called Walden. But the writing that most influenced and motivated Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. was something entitled Civil Disobedience.
This was a very short work that was inspired by Thoreau's objection to the American invasion of Mexico in the 1840s. A war that later President Grant referred to as the "most unjust war ever waged by a stronger nation on a weaker one."
During this war Thoreau came to the conclusion that if you oppose this war then you have a duty as an American to take action against it. The way Thoreau decided to object was by not paying his taxes. He reasoned that if you oppose the war you must not support the Govt that is waging the war. So the Government tax collector put him in jail.
He was told when he payed his taxes he would be released. Henry David Thoreau was by no means a wealthy man, so it was only natural his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson appeared one day at the jail ready to pay the taxes to have his friend released. Thoreau told him 'No thank you.' This experience later helped Thoreau pen the idea that ''under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.''
As I studied these men I realized that what they were fighting was not colonialism or racism or injustice, but indifference. When Gandhi marched his people to the sea to make salt he was leading the people against indifference and so it was with MLK when they marched in Selma.
We've all seen the photos of the club swinging officers on horseback opposing that peaceful march in Selma. MLK and the marchers weren't trying to convince the racists of the obvious fact that they were human. They were trying to shock the vast majority of Americans from their indifference.
As i learned about these men I realized Thoreau planted the seed of revolution in the minds of Gandhi and MLK. So Revolution Against Indifference seemed fitting for this rally.
The idea of a revolutionary conjures up images of camo fatigues and rifles, of Che Guevara or Fidel Castro in Cuba, but you don't need fatigues and rifles as Thoreau was pointing out. Although a good beard doesn't hurt. What you need is Civil Disobedience. Non participation in the status quo.
When I think of the bearded revolutionary I think of the greatest revolutionary of all, Jesus of Nazareth. Not the Christ he was to become but the man who refused to accept the status quo. The man who stood outside the temple complaining to the oblivious passers-by about the indecency of what was going on inside. When he realized that indifference was his real enemy he lost his temper and went inside and trashed the place to get the peoples attention. This was his crime, rejecting the status quo. Jesus marched to the beat of a different drummer. Jesus realized that you cant teach anyone anything until you get their attention and for this he was killed.
Martin Luther King Jr. marched to the beat of a different drummer also. He was quoted as saying ''If you want to say I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. '' He knew it would take those photos of dogs attacking defenseless marchers to shock the indifference out of American society. And for rejecting the status quo, He was killed. Gandhi was killed for the same thing and the status quo is invariably indifference. Indifference is our enemy. Indifference is what we must revolt against.
But you must pay close attention to defeat indifference because it is a part of our human nature. There are interested parties who know this and exploit this nature in us. In Thoreau's time it was exploited and we were lead into a war with Mexico. Now in our time it has been exploited again and we were lead into a war with Iraq. Indifference always returns. Indifference is the status quo.
I see a lot of young faces out there who are looking at me and seemed to be thinking how can these giant iconic men and ideas apply to me and my life? I am just a kid in school, what can I do? Well everyday at school you are confronted with indifference. Indifference in school allows bullies to rule your world just like bullies in the adult world. Bullies exploit that indifference and fill the void indifference creates in our minds with their own selfish ideas and actions.
We all know how hard growing up is. How hard it is to fit in. We all know how much energy it saps from you everyday trying to fit in so you don't attract the attention of the bully. We've all seen the kid who cant fit in no matter how hard he tries. For whatever reason he just cant keep pace with the current fashions or maybe there are other reasons that are not so obvious but he cant keep up. This always draws the attention of the bully and indifference allows the bully to do his thing.
No one chooses to stick up for this kid because he's different and sticking up for him would make you different. But when you see this kid getting picked on, when you see this kid getting bullied I want you to remember this quote from Thoreau "If a man (or student in this case) loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."
This is when Johnny realized this is the perfect point to stop and when he noticed everyone was setting around quietly listening to him he became embarrassed and quickly said, "Thank You" and introduced the guest speaker "DaaAAAAAVVvee ChapELLLLLLE!!"