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I slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.

No one asked. He did not tell.

So begins A Marine silent no longer on gay marriage, a Washington Post op ed by Roger Dean Huffstetler, a former Marine Corps sergeant, who is also a serious Southern Baptist.

He talks about TWO men who he thought he knew well who are gay, a fellow Marine Sergeant and a childhood friend.

Of the first, Sergeant Santiago, he writes  

I believed I knew the men in my B-hut better than I knew most of my friends at home, yet the man sleeping next door had a secret he dared not reveal for fear of being removed from active duty. It never crossed my mind that he was gay — or that I could have done so much more to be his friend.
And of the second, he offers this in the  next 2 paragraphs:
Even as a kid, Andy was exceptionally affable, the kind of person who could talk to a trash can. He never met a stranger, and he unfailingly seemed to know where he was going. Andy was surrounded by a close group of friends, always together, always laughing. It’s fair to say everyone enjoyed being around him.

In our teens, Andy and I would go on mission trips around the country, helping to clean or build homes, with a little vacation Bible school on the side. Perhaps Andy knew then that he was gay — it seems likely — but he flirted with girls, same as the rest of us. If he did know, he kept it to himself, and I lived in ignorance about it.

I am going to push fair use a bit - please follow me beneath the cheese doodle.

No, I never gay-bashed. I didn’t bully, I didn’t hate, I didn’t torment.

But I did say “fag” to a fellow Marine in front of Sgt. Santiago. I did stay seated in the pew when my minister challenged, “Don’t let anyone tell you that this church is soft on homosexuality.” Silence is a most powerful consent.

Reading those words reminded me of these by Edmund Burke:  All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

They also reminded me of these by Martin Luther King Jr.:  Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter

Hyffstetler writes that he had imagined had he lived in the time of the Civil Rights movement he would have been the exceptional White Southerner who would have spoken out, that he would have taken action, even it if put himself at risk.

But I didn’t do those things. I watched the fight right in front of me without question, inactive and accepting — just like the generations before me.

Well, no longer.

By now you are getting a sense of why I consider this op ed so powerful.

He writes about how he sought out both men to apologize.  You will want to read that.  In his penultimate paragraph he points out

We don’t need to look backward for a chance to stand up for principles. Life isn’t about always being right — I was wrong for a long time — but about learning from mistakes and making amends. So I started with those conversations and writing about the effect these two men had on me, about how someone raised a Southern Baptist can love everyone equally and can advocate marriage equality.
I remind people of three notable former Southern Baptists who have spoken out on issues like these - their names are Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

We all may hesitate to do the right thing.

We can always make amends.

We can, as Huffstetler opines,

Write. Speak out. Find the Andys and Sgt. Santiagos in your life and make amends.
This is an issue that those here understand.

There are enough in this community for whom this is very personal, even if they themselves are "straight," because it affects those for whom they care deeply.  I count myself among them.

Which is why I will end with the final words of the op ed, offered in bold:

There is still time to be on the right side of history.


Originally posted to teacherken on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Rights are Human Rights, LGBT Kos Community, and Kossacks for Marriage Equality.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (128+ / 0-)

    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:00:24 AM PDT

  •  Powerful, indeed. (14+ / 0-)

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, TeacherKen.  I appreciate you very much.

    If you acknowledge it, you can change it.

    by Raggedy Ann on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:14:23 AM PDT

    •  Yes, thanks! PS I posted.... (0+ / 0-)

      some of your fine commentary as comments under the piece.

      Proud to be part of the 21st Century Democratic Majority Party of the 3M's.. Multiracial, Multigender and MiddleClass

      by LOrion on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 03:40:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  AND WE ALL HAVE A CHANCE THIS SUMMER... (3+ / 0-)

        To join in with the fine Anti-Segregation activists of the 60’s...

        Now that MISSISSIPPI has signed into law a bill that allows discrimination against ALL GAYS.. Some of us wonder how they will tell?

        So we have a chance to go be MISS Activists this summer..Stage #SitIns.. go on #PrideRides and #MoralMarches just like SELMA! or to Selma even!

        We, LGBTQI, Blacks, Browns, Reds, Yellows and even Southern Baptist Whites.. can go be a Rainbow..proclaiming we are ALL GAY so Serve Us or Else!

        If you are an activist get your group involved ..if not join one.

        Proud to be part of the 21st Century Democratic Majority Party of the 3M's.. Multiracial, Multigender and MiddleClass

        by LOrion on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 03:44:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There Is Still Time (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As you point out, to be on the right side of history.

      Ignorance breeds stupidity; stupidity breeds bigotry.
      Learn to be on the right side of history in all ways possible.  Truth is the highest religion!

      Sometimes, you need a sensa uma!

      by HashHoward on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 02:34:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is the gateway to wisdom (17+ / 0-)
    Life isn’t about always being right — I was wrong for a long time — but about learning from mistakes and making amends.  
    I am learning how to grow as an artist by reframing what I used to think of as mistakes as "learning opportunities".

    It isn't just about making pretty pictures.  It is learning how to see .

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:21:58 AM PDT

    •  I prefer to call them mistakes... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If you don't admit they are mistakes, you're not really admitting when you're wrong - which is a hugely important part of taking responsibility for your actions, and learning/growing from them.

      Reframing is effectively spin - I try to avoid using spin in my own head.

      •  I disagree... (0+ / 0-)

        One can just as easily let themselves off the hook by admitting a mistake - "Oops, I screwed up.  But that's the past."  By framing a mistake as an opportunity for amends, one is, in fact accepting not only the responsibility for their wrong-doing, but the responsibility to make something good come of it as well.

        •  I suspect we're very different... (0+ / 0-)

          ... in the way we use the language of apology. In the case of making a mistake, that affected others, unless it was something infinitesimal like forgetting to pick up the milk, I would NEVER use the words "screwed up." Especially following "Oops."

          To me it's a really passive way to avoid actually saying sorry, or admitting culpability. I admit, that might just be a personal attitude toward the phrase, but whenever a company or a public figure uses it, it seems like they're trying to put on the appearance of saying sorry without saying, "We were wrong."

          I also wouldn't use the term "off the hook" in a way that's positive. To me, letting yourself off the hook, is exactly the opposite of taking responsibility and admitting your mistake. In particular since saying someone was let "off the hook," means the responsibility was taken off of their shoulders.

          But I suspect you're using the phrase, in the same way I would say, "cut myself a break." Which, for me, isn't about disassociating oneself from guilt, but just trying to take into account any mitigating circumstances, and accept that the mistake was made, but self-flagellation isn't going to help anything.

          I still would prefer to say, "I made a mistake, and I'm going to make amends and learn from it," over saying, "I see this as a learning opportunity."

          •  Sorry I was unclear... (0+ / 0-)

            I was trying to say that simply saying "I screwed up" & moving on would offer no personal growth.  However, viewing your mistakes as an opportunity to make amends allows the opportunity to grow & learn from your mistakes as well.  my Catholic roots taught me that it is not enough simply to confess your sins.  You have to truly repent, which includes making amends & making an honest effort not to repeat your wrong...  That's where recognizing & seizing opportunity comes in to play.

      •  not necessarily (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sendtheasteroid, raspberryberet

        Some of us learn more powerfully when we can see the good stuff on other side of the door, whereas some of us are strongly motivated by escaping the bad stuff on this side. Some of us are carrot people, some need the stick.

        Personally I need the carrot. I constantly beat myself enough with a stick that carrots become a very powerful incentive. I maintain a stronger optimism when I can see the good in the bad and use that to fix things. When others give up, overwhelmed by the mistakes and bad things that happen around them I can see the positive things in those and find a way to lift myself out of them and fix problems.

        It really isn't just spin. Each person works best with a different mix. For you, CT, you may work best by clearly branding mistakes as such. For me they are stepping stones towards being better. My sig on my emails is a quote from Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "If you don't have any failures then you're not trying hard enough." When people ask me how I know so much about computers I answer that I've simply made more screwups than most people and it's how we learn.

        The brain is the only organ where you'd prefer to be the donor instead of the recipient.

        by miriam e on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 03:47:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is most assuredly true... (0+ / 0-)

          ... that people find different ways to cope with their failures. But I think it's important to note, that the quote you mentioned, uses the word failures, and doesn't fail to call them that. And a failure, is a mistake - as is a screwup.

          I also think you may have missed my point, in your analogy. In my opinion, the best path involves the carrot AND the stick. I will beat myself up when it's appropriate, and then move on, and learn from the mistake when I need to - but never do I avoid admitting that it was, in fact, a mistake. That was my point, about the language in question.

          Obviously you and I disagree on the way to address mistakes in one's life. But I maintain that avoiding the word mistake, and reframing as a learning opportunity, is still spin - because it intentionally avoids any mention of culpability.

          Now calling it a failure, or a screw up, that's not spin - it's using common language - as would be using any of those terms, in addition to references to a learning opportunity. So calling a mistake a 'failure you're trying to learn from', I would agree that's both admitting wrong doing and trying to find a positive forward trajectory with knowledge of your error.

          As I said - I believe you can only properly take those steps toward being better, if you admit that you were wrong in the first place. I wouldn't agree that's a subjective attitude. I think, to function properly in a society, and show respect to those affected by a mistake, both elements of the language are essential - i.e. the admission of culpability and the intention to improve.

          For example -  when Walmart finally admits that they should be paying their employees a living wage, I wager they'll do just about anything to admit their former salary scale was a mistake, both fiscally and morally, and they'll focus on what they're going to do moving forward. But if they actually said, "You know, we were wrong, we're going to do better," I might start to think someone in that organization has developed a conscience.

          I'm not trying to attach your choice of personal philosophy, I'm just saying that I think the specific words involving culpability and responsibility, are more important and less subjective than you're suggesting.

  •  Wonderful diary. Thanks for sharing. n/t (5+ / 0-)
  •  This is progress (10+ / 0-)

    Real serious progress. Minds have been changed, finally.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:27:53 AM PDT

  •  Great words. (6+ / 0-)

    I particularly appreciate the tone of compassion.


    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:43:02 AM PDT

  •  Well, unless one equates speaking with doing, (6+ / 0-)

    the Burke quote exaggerates. Speaking up, I would argue, is enough.
    On the other hand, when authority stands silent in the face of abuse, it becomes complicit. And, since in a democracy, we the people are the authority, when we stand silent we participate in abuse.
    One suspects that abusers, just to keep themselves inviolate, go to great lengths to perpetrate and perpetuate the myth that death is what's really important, that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and so abusive behavior can't just be overlooked, but is actually good.
    See, that's what I call perverse. That's why I consider the Congressionally sponsored sequestration and austerity agenda a perversion, if not downright evil. I mean, we hire and pay people to provide and then they deprive. How is that not evil? Because abuse strengthens? Right.

    by hannah on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:50:35 AM PDT

  •  I especially like this bit: (9+ / 0-)
    Life isn’t about always being right — I was wrong for a long time — but about learning from mistakes and making amends.
    because it applies to everything, from relationships to civil rights to scientific inquiry.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 06:01:05 AM PDT

  •  Thanks nt (5+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 06:02:24 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this. (8+ / 0-)

    I'm one of of (what seems) the few Southern Baptists around here, and I often find myself typing the words, "hey, we aren't all like that."

    I'm happy to see another member of my faith community raising their voice in this fashion.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:07:14 AM PDT

  •  Another quote (14+ / 0-)

    along the lines of Edmond Burke and Martin Luther King, Jr., are these words from Elie Wiesel, which I heard just yesterday:

    I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

    -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

    by gizmo59 on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:25:16 AM PDT

  •  Why do we expect certain people to be perfect (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, nokkonwud, diggerspop

    from the start? Honest question. I feel there is a double standard when it comes to looking deep inside and changing one's prior beliefs.

    When a politician or business executive changes beliefs, that's opportunism. When it's a service member or our neighbor, that's honorable. Why is that? Is that separation related to our existing bias? (Meaning we already disrespect or distrust the politician, so we don't take their word.)

  •  this is why Gays in the Military was critical (7+ / 0-)

    it made them from the Internal enemy to the
    Guardians of society.

    It was the only fight worth having and it changed
    it all.

  •  Beautiful diary (3+ / 0-)

    I may steel a quote for my sig line. Hope you and the Sergeant don't mind.

    Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

    by OIL GUY on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:41:25 AM PDT

    •  well, I 'borrowed' a lot from him (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, diggerspop, Terry S, OIL GUY

      this site used to say "steal what you want"

      now the basic rule is unless the poster asserts copyright (which I don't) you are free to repost but you should give appropriate credit -  in this case to the sergeant

      "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

      by teacherken on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:58:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  As Anatole France once said: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      diggerspop, teacherken, OIL GUY

      "When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple; take it and copy it."

      P.S. But also heed the wise words of teacherken.

      "Stupidity is far more dangerous than evil, for evil takes a break from time to time, stupidity does not." -- Anatole France

      by terremoto on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 10:22:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That was an amazing editorial (6+ / 0-)

    I wish more men would do what he did: apologize and try to make amends when they realize they are wrong. I'm so proud of him.


    I don't know about Chris Martin, but I do know why Saint Peter won't call my name.

    by Bill in MD on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:48:44 AM PDT

  •  My nephew did a beautiful thing. (4+ / 0-)

    Unlike his parents, who are very secular, my nephew someone got dragged into the rock-churchy crowd. I invited him to a concert --- The Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses and he seemed excited to go. And then, mysteriously, without explanation, he backed out.

    Just a few weeks ago (20 years later?) he apologized to me  and explained that at the time he thought that going with me would mean "approval of my lifestyle" (because that's what churches tell everyone).

    He avidly supports gay civil rights now and he apologized in a clear and unequivocal way that demonstrated his views on this have not only evolved -- they've done a 180.

    I just told him thank you but it ain't no thang. I was just sorry we couldn't have that shared experience of the concert together.

    So, no  --it's never too late to do the right thing. He did. If he hadn't, I would have loved him anyway. But I am very happy that he is one of those in the majority of Americans who are saying "Enough is enough -  these are our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles".

    If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

    by Bensdad on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 10:56:22 AM PDT

  •   The op-ed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    reasonshouldrule, diggerspop

    was very moving and up lifting. All people deserve to love the person who conquered their hearts.

  •  I have a sister who's gay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and another who is convinced that our gay sister is gay because our parents were harder on her (our parents were only harder on her because she was one of the more difficult teens out of the 11 of us and she was probably more difficult because of her internal struggle, growing up in a large Catholic family)  I side with my gay sister (who I don't even think knows exactly how the other, who's next to her in birth order, knows how she feels.  It's not just the fact that she thinks my sister could change if she wanted to, she actually always brings God (and her narrow minded thinking) into the conversation.  If you argue with her, she's gets worse and sometimes even angry, so I avoid the conversation so that we stay on good terms.  I'm pleading for advise on how to handle the situation.  I want to have the conversation with her, without her flying off the handle about "It's not me that said it, it's God, she just doesn't live the bible".  Is she hopeless?  I get angry even thinking about her position.  And the thought of a rational conversation with her about it eludes me.  It exhausts me just thinking about it, but I'm not sure I want to make her my enemy.  I think I'm more upset about it than my gay sister, because she's dealt with this and much worse throughout her life as she is 60 years old now.  Any takers?

    •  Your non-gay sister doesn't live by the bible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      Does she wear clothing made of cotton and polyester?  Then she violates the biblical taboo against wearing clothes of two different fibers.

      Does she think adulterers should be stoned?  No?  She doesn't 'live' the bible.

      Does she think children should be beaten?  No?  Then she violates the biblical adjuration about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

      Read Deuteronomy and Leviticus - you'll find lots of things today's bible thumpers don't believe it.  For example, do they really believe Absalom's ass spoke to him?

      •  I have brought all of those things to her attentio (0+ / 0-)

        and any other religious fanatic that has tried to argue the same (about living the bible).  When I reference anything Old Testament they reason that with the fact that Jesus came and clarified the messages of the Old Testament. and state that some of the things were rectified after His birth (tell me where it says that!?!?) They seem to almost want to ignore the Old Testament when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.  I probably wasn't real clear with my request.  I wanted to come at her with something I haven't tried before.  Preferably some New Testament readings that she can't try to ignore.  I always think it's interesting how people that think they're so righteous with the Bible can pick and choose which to take literal and which not.  She's so argumentative about it that she has an answer for everyting.  Thanks for the response :-)

    •  tell your judgemental sister (3+ / 0-)

      to look at the gay marriage celebrated in the bible (1 Samuel 18:1, 3-4) when Jonathan and David get wedded, and if she excuses it as merely a diplomatic alliance, as religious people are fond of saying, ask her to keep reading to 1 Samuel 20:41 where they have to be apart for a while and they embrace, kissing and crying at the prospect.

      Get her to look at the only woman who has a book in the bible, Ruth, and the undying love she proclaims for Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17).

      Then get her to look at the other side of the bible and how smashing babies' brains out on rocks is okay, and the frankly horrifying exhortation for us all to commit genocide in Deuteronomy 13:12-16.

      Get her to cast her eye over this list of about 200 contradictions in the bible.

      Suggest she check out the Skeptic's Annotated Bible to help her see what the bible really says.

      Ask her why, if god really was loving and just, why he would think it is a good thing to torture someone forever for not believing in him when he'd deliberately set the evidence so heavily against his existence.

      Ask her why so many religions make their gods so tiny and petty that if there really were any gods they would be massively insulted at the things said and done in their names. What god worthy of the name would want people to obsessively worship them? If I made a world of intelligent creatures I wouldn't need constant praise from them; I'm not that insecure. I'd just want them to be good to one another. Years ago when I had a job building virtual worlds I wrote a short story about this, called Grace. Perhaps she could read that.

      She may yet change. People do all the time. All religions are haemorrhaging badly. It is only a matter of time before the christian god joins Thor and Wodin, and Neptune, and Mithra, and Asha. All those gods are just as imaginary as her one.

      Being good to people because it is a good thing to do is so much better than doing it because a book told you to anyway. :)

      The brain is the only organ where you'd prefer to be the donor instead of the recipient.

      by miriam e on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 04:30:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your parents didn't make your sister gay. (0+ / 0-)

      And nothing can change her into a straight person. Not the Bible, not your other sister.

      It's completely natural and normal to be homosexual. It has been found in thousands of species of animals. Really, it's not a big deal. The only issue is how those around your sister deal with who she is...

      •  I agree with all of that and have always (0+ / 0-)

        felt the same way.  It's my other straight sister I have trouble communicating with about it.  I've said all of these things and more to her.  I was looking for more of a religious response to her and I think I've received one above!  Thank you, all of you, for the input!

  •  Reminds me of Markos (0+ / 0-)

    as Markos has blogged about how he was a Republican until he went into the army and learned about collectivism.  Ironic, isn't it, how the conservative ideas can be thwarted by the very institutions the conservatives profess to admire and claim as their own?  This southern Baptist was able to learn to love all people through his experiences in the Marines which are, perhaps, the most conservative arm of the military.

  •  horse petunias (0+ / 0-)

    Teacherken,,,, just a short comment. Homosexuality is un-natural, un-sanitary, un-healthy (aids, stds, etc,etc) un-realistic, GOD did not make  Adam, and Bruce), and stomach turning. If you, and others like it, fine, but keep it to yourselves, just as you would after eating horse dung, the rest of us are not interested in your disgusting behavior.

    •  let's see (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raspberryberet, Calamity Jean

      1.  I am straight

      2.  many straights do oral and anal sex.  If that disgusts you that's your problem

      3.  on this site, if you think homosexuality is disgusting you are in the wrong place

      4.  homosexuality or its equivalent occurs across the natural world

      5.  same sex attraction is often genetically determined

      6.  you are a disgusting bigot, but then, you probably already knew that.

      "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 05:03:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I JUST LEARNED SOMETHING! (0+ / 0-)

        I clicked around, in anger, and discovered that I can make that repugnant, repulsive, disgusting and nasty post disappear!
        Thank you for your post.

        If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself. Bob Dylan

        by weezilgirl on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 03:09:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  One more thing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raspberryberet, Calamity Jean

      you are VERY lucky you are posting this so far down the thread or you would be hide rated out of visibility in a heartbeat.

      I do not hide rate the comment because it is on my diary.  Were I to encounter this garbage any place else I would not hesitate.

      "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 05:04:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Minds are like parachutes; they function (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      best when open.  

      Please pry yours open and see if you can learn something.  

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Calamity Jean on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 11:17:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Freedom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    There are two groups of people in our country today;

    The first group believe freedom is for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, social class etc.

    The other group believes freedom is only for those who believe like them or those who look like them or who worship like them. You get my drift.

    Some people seem to forget, if freedom is not for everyone then no one can truly be free.

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