If you’ve been around enough in Baha’i circles you have the unfortunate circumstance to see some unpleasantries. Nothing unusual in that, all organizations no matter their nature or size have some negative stuff. What I mean by that general term are situations where misunderstandings or misapplications of procedure or regulations puts a Baha’i in disagreement with the AO (or some of their agencies and bodies). In each of these cases it is the individual who is bullied and pushed around (no matter what the circumstances, the AO never acknowledges that it may be wrong or mistaken). Sadly, there have been many of these over the years and with the marvel of the internet, Baha’is have been able to read about such cases where they wouldn’t normally be privy to the information.
After being exposed to quite a few of these ugly experiences (mine and others) I found a common denominator that seems to run through all of them. And that is when the person wronged tells their side, they are pelted with demands of ‘proof’. No matter what they say, defenders of the AO will not accept anything except their version of ‘proof’. That is they want a certain condition or conditions to be fulfilled before they will consider the possiblity that the AO did anything remotely wrong or damaging to an individual believer. We saw this with the tragic case of Shirin, where the only thing that seemed to help was the threat of public exposure for the irresponsible and borderline criminal behaviour of the AO.
I can understand the intention of such demands for proof. No one likes it when someone comes up with empty allegations and accusations. Believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of it quite a bit and its not a great feeling. What I disagree with is the demand that the proof furnished be in an exact type and format. In fact, this whole thing made me immediately think of a scene in “A Few Good Men”. If you haven’t seen it, the general premise of the movie is an investigation into the suspicious death of a soldier in Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). We learn that the incident which caused his death is called a ‘code red’ and is intended to be an internal mechanism to force conformity and loyalty within the unit.
The scene that I refer to is in the military trial where the defense attorney (Kevin Bacon as ROSS)tries to sabotage the prosecutor’s (Tom Cruise as KAFEE) whole strategy by attempting to deny that a ‘code red’ even exists. Here is the relevant part out of the script:
ROSS takes three books out of his briefcase and puts them on
the table. He brings one to HOWARD.
Corporal Howard, I hold here The Marine
Guide and General Information Handbook for
New Recruits. Are you familiar with this
Have you read it?
(hands him the book)
Would you turn to the chapter that deals
with code reds, please.
Just flip to the page in that book that
discusses code reds.
Sir, you see, Code Red is a term we use–
it’s just used down at GITMO, sir. I
don’t know if it actually–
ROSS has produced another book.
We’re in luck, then. The Marine Corps
Guide for Sentry Duty, NAVY BASE
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I assume we’ll find
the term code red and its definition in
this book, am I correct?
No? Corporal Howard, I’m a marine. Is
their no book, no manual or pamphlet, no
set of orders or regulations that let me
know that, as a marine, one of my duties
is to perform code reds?
No sir. No books, sir.
No further questions.
ROSS sits. KAFFEE walks over to ROSS‘s table and picks
up one of the books. He brings it to HOWARD.
Corporal, would you turn to the page in
this book that says where the enlisted
men’s mess hall is?
Lt. Kaffee, that’s not in the book, sir.
I don’t understand, how did you know where
the enlisted men’s mess hall was if it’s
not in this book?
I guess I just followed the crowd at chow
No more questions.
KAFFEE chucks the book back on ROSS‘s desk.
What’s my point? Well, ‘code reds’ by their very nature are not written down or documentable. But that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Unfortunately, there have been ‘code reds’ in the Baha’i Faith, which causes me great anquish and sadness. The latest one that we all found out about was Larry’s case.
My heart goes out to anyone who has been the victim of the misguided, who in their false understanding of the AO, have chosen to inflict upon them their imperfect understanding and demand conformity.
Some deny emphatically that such bullying happens within the Baha’i community but many others concede that such ‘code reds’ do, unfortunately, occur within the Baha’i Faith, but they say, if such incidences do occur, they are but the personal and mistaken acts of individuals and do not reflect at all on the AO or the Faith. Basically, I agree with this. Individuals can make mistakes and we should not generalize and blame the AO or the Faith for their errors.
But here is my problem with such reasoning in this case. Were such ‘code reds’ to occur once or twice in a blue moon, I could forgive it and look the other way. Were such ‘code reds’ to be condemned later by the AO and the persons instigating them chastised, and removed from offices of authority and power, I could forgive it and look the otherway. Were such ‘code reds’ to be reversed, the victim given a full, written and official apology, I could forgive it and look the other way.
However, when instead I see that there is a protracted pattern of bullying by people in the AO and nothing has been done about it, it concerns me. When I see that those individual’s are not punished but instead are given a silent message of approval and often are promoted to higher office and authority, it concerns me. When I see that such bullying behaviour is quitely encouraged (Baha’is are asked to be ever vigilant and spy on their fellow believers), I am alarmed and saddened. Then I can no longer, in good conscience, separate the persons who are doing those things and saying those things, and the AO itself.
In my next few posts I hope to tell the story of a ‘code red’ that I learned about just recently. To protect the innocent I will not use the names of the persons involved or the location. But it is a true story and I want to tell it because it illustrates that for every ‘code red’ that we do hear about (such as Larry’s or Alison’s or Juan’s….) there are many, many others who we don’t.