When Sarah Palin commented, at this last week's national National Rifle Association convention, "...waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists," she did worse than offend, worse than degrade human beings, worse than stir up a group of weapon-advocates. She did so in the Name of God. The fact that the NRA would allow someone to promote fundamentalism at their convention is a violation of their civic responsibility and a threat to human rights on a national scale.
Most faith traditions incorporate water's restorative power. The Muslim ritual ablution of Wudu, the Jewish Mikveh ritual bath, the Hindu ritual immersions in the River Ganges, and the Christian practice of baptism, each point to renewal, transformation, and life. How dare the NRA tolerate -- worse, amplify -- hatred garbed in religious symbolism.
Leave aside the fact, which Palin consistently ignores, that torture has been proven ineffective in acquiring actionable intelligence. Leave aside the illegality of torture, affirmed by the United States' signature on the UN Convention Against Torture, which stipulates, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Leave aside the partisan semantics of what actually constitutes torture in the first place. That has all been settled beyond question, and is not the source of my outrage at the NRA.
Faith traditions consider torture to be a desecration of the image of God, which is why groups like T'ruah: The Rabbinical Call for Human Rights and NRCAT (National Religious Campaign Against Torture) have been marshalling religious leaders to address the moral question of torture (this week marking the 10th anniversary of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos).
The National Rifle Association consistently grants fundamentalists a platform for spewing hatred and promoting the tools of war, using the Second Amendment to garner financial gain. They are using talking heads and patriotism to feed their greed, and the human cost is growing beyond 31,000 annual U.S. gun violence deaths. Fueled by demagogues like Sarah Palin, the NRA's social impact is immeasurable.
Witnessing Sarah Palin's ignorance and venom paired with the NRA's profitability is both terrifying and offensive. The NRA claim that is committed to "responsible gun ownership" is proven false, unless they repudiate Palin's remarks. (They should then expel NRA Board Member Ted Nugent, who was paid $16,000 by the city of Longview, Texas not to appear at the town's Fourth of July festival, saying that Nugent was "not the right feel for this kind of community event.")
Jewish tradition teaches that
"All who can protest against something wrong that one of their family is doing and does not protest, is held accountable for their family. All who can protest against something wrong that a citizen of their city is doing and does not protest, is held accountable for all citizens of the city. All who can protest against something wrong that is being done in the whole world, is accountable together with all citizens of the world. (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b)"
I am an American faith leader who holds the NRA accountable and stands in protest with countless others, reminding our country that blood saturates our streets. In a sense, Palin has led me to agree with one part of the NRA's mantra: people do kill people.