Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mixing running and human rights

I completed the San Juan Solstice. I actually (is "actually" actually necessary) finished 20 minutes faster than I did 6 years ago. The conditions were perfect this year: stream crossings were very low, no snow fields, no lightning, no storms, not too hot, not too cold. The only real threat was smoke from a massive forest fire not far from the Continental Divide. 

What occupied my attention for 14 hours and 46 minutes (besides how good dinner was going to taste)? Prior to the start, I was talking with a couple of people: One man from Brooklyn and one woman from Virginia. And then there was me. We were chatting about races we have done "back east." She (M from VA) mentioned the race series put on my David Horton. I grimaced and said I wouldn't run his races because of his promotion of certain religious statements (his beliefs that are not just personal, but also political). She said, "Yeah,  but he has done a lot for trail running." T (from Brooklyn) said that we shouldn't mix running and religion or politics. He said that Horton is just promoting the values of his workplace. T said, "You know, he doesn't have a choice." I shot back, "Neither do I." Both T and M looked uncomfortable but stuck by their earlier statements: don't mix politics/religion and running.

So, that occupied my mind for a large portion of the race. As Mary Ann pointed out, this issue doesn't personally affect T or M, so they can easily dismiss Horton's intolerance. But when do people take a stand? When is running a particular race less important than supporting human rights? 

It would be easy to compare this exchange to the famous argument about those who failed to stand up to the Nazis (Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the socialists..."). There is one very important difference between the evangelicals and the Nazis: the Nazis wanted to kill all of those who were impure (Jews, gays, lesbians); the evangelicals only want to get rid of these people by converting them, ie by changing who they are. 

Yes, I admit this is an over-the-top comparison. But then again, after living in the same city with Fred Phelps and his parishioners and their blatant hatred of gays and lesbians, I sometimes get a bit defensive. For me, I will continue to run races that are not associated with intolerance.

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