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Responding to the attorney general’s investigation into McCurtain County sheriff

“Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.”— The Prophet Ezekiel

In light of the recent developments in McCurtain County and the exoneration of Sheriff Kevin Clardy, I knew I could not keep silent.

In reference to the audio recording released by the McCurtain Gazette-News of the shocking statements made by several McCurtain County officials, it is reasonable that we as individuals might ask in total disbelief, “What has our nation come to?” The answer is a striking question, “When has our response to racism and injustice been any different?”

Is America truly a country built on principles of “liberty and justice for all,” or have we believed the biggest lie ever told? The painful truth is that from its very inception, America has embraced the philosophy of slavery and oppression in the core of its foundation. “Good ole’ days?” Really?

From the time of the drafting of the American Constitution “… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was designed for and limited to a very specific group of people. Although it is true the American Constitution claims to “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” I am astonished at the blatant rejection of “self-evident truth.” By their own definition, our Founding Fathers asserted that equality was only for those who fit their definition of human. Hence, Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution of the United States declared that any enslaved person counted as only three-fifths of a man. Could there be a more blatant and obnoxious rejection of “self evident” truth than this?

In March, the McCurtain Gazette-News reported unthinkable comments and threats were made by McCurtain County officials. Attempts have been made to pursue and prosecute these individuals to the full extent of the law, and they should be. However, will we lay blame and accusation only on those involved in the recorded conversations, or will we also expose and decry the system that created the environment for these social crimes? I love America. I thank God for the freedom that we still enjoy. However, we must not be deceived by what in reality is a facade of “freedom.” There is a power structure that is determined to divide us on every line and thereby conquer us, oppress us and use us to continue to enrich itself as it has always done.

The response to the recently released audio recordings of a McCurtain County officials meeting clearly reveal how calloused, indifferent and silent the church has been on the issue of racism and oppression. After all, were the individuals recorded not part of our country’s “good Christian society?”

This brings to Sheriff Kevin Clardy himself. Just for a moment, put yourself in the position of McCurtain County residents. Here is a man who was elected by the people to serve and protect his community. Do we really expect residents, particularly anyone who feels threatened by the comments of the officials, to call Kevin Clardy in an emergency? I would not. A man who participated in a conversation involving the most heinous threats against members of his own community has irreconcilably abused and corrupted his office, and broken the trust of his constituents. We have no choice but to acknowledge this as a “self-evident” truth. But once again it seems that, as in 1787, so in 2023, these “truths” are defined and work only in the favor of a very few.

What if the exact statements had been made in reference to the sheriff and his circle of officials by anyone else? What would the outcome have been? Would Attorney General Gentner Drummond also have found “no evidence?”

What did Drummond’s “thorough” investigation consist of anyway? It appears that threats of lynchings, beatings, merciless hit men, secret burial sites and the necessary equipment to perform them does not qualify as “enough evidence” for anyone to be terminated from a position of public service.

Apparently in Drummond’s view, death threats do not require further action on his part because the state has no right to dismiss a public servant “merely for saying something offensive.” Anyone who heard the cruel and malicious words spoken in that meeting and did not immediately reveal these conversations to the authorities is guilty and has the potential to commit the crimes mentioned or at least consent to their execution. To Sheriff Clardy and the officials on the audio recording with him, I say, “You said what you said; you meant what you said!”

I was always taught that silence is consent and that one can be guilty by association. Do we believe it? Now it is our time to speak. Will we?

I take this opportunity to thank the McCurtain Gazette-News and every single voice that has been willing to expose crimes and injustices and to stand up for freedom. I call on every man and woman to unite in this great cause of justice. We cannot be silent while our brothers and sisters are being oppressed and discriminated against. We must come together for open and candid conversations on the issues that are affecting so many. We must create awareness and educate our communities on subjects such as systematic racism, white supremacy and white privilege.

The time for revolution has come. Not a revolution by violence, but rather a revolution motivated through love and unity. This will usher in the reconciliation of all things.

Elder Markus Tovstiga

Elder Markus Tovstiga

Elder Markus Tovstiga is pastor of The Church of God in Oklahoma City.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Guest: We cannot be silent while others are discriminated against