Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Non-violent

Larry Trapp had been brutalized by his father and was an alcoholic by the 4th grade. As an adult he became the grand dragon of the Nebraska KKK, although in a wheel chair with diabetes.

Cantor Michael Weisser and his wife moved into a new house. The phone rang: A voice said "You'll be sorry you ever moved there, Jew boy" and the man hung up. Then they got a letter: "The KKK is watching you", with pictures of Hitler, etc.

The Weissers learned from the police who it probably was and that he was very dangerous; he had been responsible for several sneaky outrages.

Weisser called Trapp: "Don't you know that Hitler's first victims were handicapped people like you? He reasoned with him and hung up.

After several such calls Trapp called him. "what the h--- do you want?"
"I just wanted to talk to you".
"Are you black?:
"Jewish".
"Well stop harassing me; why are you calling me?"

Weisser replied, "I know you're in a wheelchair, and I thought I could take you to the grocery store or something."

Trapp thanked him and said, "Please don't call me anymore."

During a later call Trapp admitted that "he was rethinking a few things", but then he went on the radio with the usual racist poison.

Weisser called him, "You're not rethinking anything. You're a liar and a hypocrit. What can you say for yourself?"

what do you think? Trapp said, "I'm sorry I did that. I've been talking like that all my life. I can't help it. I'll apologize."

In the synagogue they had prayer for the grand dragon.

The next evening Trapp called, "I want to get out [of KKK], but I don't know how." Weisser went over there with his wife. Soon Trapp burst into tears and pulled the swastikas off his shirt. "Soon all three were crying, then laughing, then hugging." The grand dragon resigned his office and wrote apologies to the many people he had threatened.

When he got word he would die within a year, Trapp moved into the Wiesser's house where they tended him like a baby until he died-- a Jew.

(This comes from "The Powers That Be", pp 172-5, where Wink abstracted a longer story in Kathryn Watterson's "Not by the Sword" (1995).)

In this poor, suffering country of ours will someone speak truth to power?

8 comments:

Liz Opp said...

Larry, I had seen a wonderful production by In The Heart of the Beast of the stageplay based on these real-life events (I've forgotten what the play was called). And just the other day, I was thinking about the experiences shared by these unlikely companions...

Like you, I also have been despairing and crying out to God for the next peacemaker-leader to come forward: where is this decade's Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr or John Woolman?! I have no answers; I mostly pray that I can be faithful moment by moment so I may be ready to "speak truth to power."

But the disconcerting thought is that I fear I will fall short when the time comes...

Blessings,
Liz

Larry said...

Thanks, Liz. I can only say that I heartily share your feelings.

Liz Opp said...

I emailed QuakerBooks of FGC to ask if they have the book "Not By The Sword"--which they do! I was also surprised to find out that the author, Kathryn Watterson, is Quaker, which I hadn't known. Did you?!

Larry said...

That's good information, Liz, thanks. I didn't know she was a Quaker, but I'm not surprised.

Walter Wink, who digested the story is a "United Methodist minister, teaching in a Presbyterian Seminary, and attends a Quaker meeting!

Here's a website that tells something about him and his book.

Paul Landskroener said...

The Heart of the Beast play was entitled "Befriending the Enemy." We tried hard to get it performed at the FGC Gathering in River Falls in 1998 when it was on tour, but the dates didn't work out.

Larry said...

Thank you, Paul.

John Abbe said...

Liz, don't be discouraged! Today's peacemaking movement has many leaders, but perhaps more importantly there is recognition that we *all* need to develop our compassion and our communication skills to really get somewhere.

I've found Nonviolent Communication very helpful, and although i don't have so much experience with it, Focusing.

John Abbe said...

Oh yeah, the In The Heart of the Beast production was Befriended by the Enemy.