By Alan Bean
Proverbs 6:16-19 (NRSV)
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.
Everybody can define “hottie” these days; but the old-school word “haughty” doesn’t come up much in casual conversation. If you’re not familiar with the term, the Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a simple definition:
Having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people.
If you would like to see haughty eyes, look no further than the faces of the men and women protesting the arrival of migrants from Central America. The woman who screamed, “we don’t want you; nobody wants you!” may have believed she was speaking for the entire nation.
She was speaking for the slice of America that believes white Anglophones are “real Americans”. A tea party web page in Texas reprinted a virulent screed from a California protest group that summarized the attitude perfectly:
“Americans are not breeding while ‘the bronze master race is.’ … We will die out and they will win.”
The list of evils in Proverbs 6 begins with “haughty eyes” and goes on to list the attendant evils that follow “the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people”: lies, false witness, plotting evil, doing evil, and sowing the seeds of disunity.
The American experiment has always been sorely tested by the haughty eyes of the fearful. You can see the fear in the clenched fists and distorted faces.
When I think of the folks in Murrieta, a classic picture from the civil rights movement springs to mind.
The place was Little Rock, Arkansas; the time was 1957. The white woman in the picture is Hazel Bryan, only fifteen years old at the time; the black woman is Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock 9. Elizabeth had just attempted to enter Central High School in Little Rock, but had been rebuffed by the Arkansas state guard. As she turned away from the school, a white mob followed her.
When Hazel Bryan saw this picture, she was horrified. Looking up Elizabeth Eckford in the phone book, she reached out in apology. Hazel honestly hadn’t realized what being part of a mob had done to her.
I hope the people of Murrieta, seething with the resentment of those who feel their position of privilege is threatened, will one day see their “haughty eyes” in the photographs flowing out of that community and realize what belong to a mob has done to them.
We sometimes speak as if the mere passage of time has elevated us above the bigotry of previous generations. It hasn’t. The haughty eyes of Proverbs 6 are hardwired into the human psyche. We are no better than the folks who viewed lynchings as celebratory events. Check out the couple in the bottom left hand corner of the picture–they are normal folks like you and me.
What we are witnessing in California may be less extreme than a lynching, the holocaust, or the Rwandan genocide, but this is where it all begins and, as Proverbs 6 suggests, it’s all downhill from here.