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May 07 2012

What I would like to hear from Edwina Rogers

Yes, I’ve written an imaginary PR e-mail from Edwina Rogers, the controversial new Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, based on conjectures and false hopes and a little bit of AbFab.  It seemed the thing to do.

Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the SCA

“I want to start off with an apology for something I feel like I, and the SCA, have done a poor job of.  We’ve done a poor job of introducing me and an incredibly poor job of reaching out to opinion leaders in the atheist movement.  Undoubtedly, the behind-closed-doors decision to make what was bound to be a controversial hiring decision should have been tempered by a more comprehensive and immediate introduction and explanation of why I, of all people, was chosen for this position.

I have identified as a non-theist for a long time, but I am very new to this movement.  This is not because I don’t care about the issues you care about, I very much do, but they have not been my focus and, because of that, I really didn’t realize how bad things were until recently.  My career and my focus have been very issue centered, some of these issues overlapped with my own secular beliefs, but the fact is that issue-focused work tends to create a very insular worldview.  So, in many ways, I am a recent convert, not to your beliefs, but to your cause.

Which is where I have made another mistake.  This community is very engaged and very well-informed and I have done my best to educate myself quickly, but there are things I have missed on the way.  My recollection of statistics about Republicans from 20 years ago, for example, is not really the best gauge of Republicans now.  Sometimes I forget that that was an entire generation ago, it doesn’t seem that long to me.  And I have to admit that my claims that the majority of Republicans are pro-choice, OK with gay rights, and for the separation of church and state were as much a result of wishful thinking as they were of ignorance.  I have had statistics shown to me that do indeed prove I was dead wrong on this front.

And I need your help on this front.  I am trying, but I just am not as well-educated about this as those people who have focused on this cause their whole lives.  I know the goals of the coalition and am well-versed in those goals and don’t doubt my ability to execute them, but as for the wider culture of the secular movement and the less specific goals thereof, I will need more time to learn the nuances, and I hope you will help me rather than condemning me for my neophyte status.

My final big mistake is that I’ve been trying to focus exclusively on my positives without acknowledging my negatives and without engaging with them openly and honestly.  This is a fault of being in politics, it makes you quite the bullshit artist.  I should have known better in this community than to think I could dance around questions without being called on it.  So let me say that you are right.  You are right that I’ve worked for and support a party that disagrees, in majority but not in totality, with many of your goals.  But I was working for causes that I cared very deeply about, and I will not apologize for doing that.  And I will not abandon my party because other people have taken it in a direction I disagree with.  It is better for all of us if we can bring the party back in line with the goals of the secular community and I really do think that is possible.

So, just to recap, I haven’t done a good enough job introducing myself, I haven’t had the time to educate myself as thoroughly as the community is educated, and I have not been clear on acknowledging that there were some negatives to my background.  That said, I think I bring a lot to the table that I hope you can appreciate.

I am an experienced lobbyist and I know the workings of DC very well.  I have led coalitions in the past and had great success.  Although my work with Republicans is difficult for many of you to accept, it gives me an in to people who might not otherwise be as interested in hearing what we have to say.  And I am legitimately, passionately interested in promoting this cause.  I did not simply apply because I needed a job — I had a job, one that was a lot less contentious — I applied because I have become aware of some of the horrible inequities in this country for people who are secular.  I am just as horrified as all of you at the degree of influence the Christian Right has on the government, and I want to change that.  I have the credentials to do the job from a strictly political side, but I promise you that I am here because I want to be, because this cause is important to me, and because I think that I personally can make a difference through this position with the SCA.

The SCA chose me because I was, in their opinion, the best person for the job.  I wouldn’t dream of asking you to take it on faith that theirs was the best choice, but I hope that you can give me a chance and the benefit of the doubt for a little while.  I look forward to talking with you at conferences and through our local organizations.  Together, I really do think we can change this country in meaningful ways on important issues.

Best,
Eddie”

10 comments

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  1. 1
    danielwalldammit

    Interesting

  2. 2
    The Honest Atheist

    Fucking brilliant. If only.

  3. 3
    Kathy Orlinsky

    That was great. I still hold out some hope that Rogers will prove to be an asset to the cause, given her experience in lobbying. However, hearing her opinion that you can’t claim the GOP is anti-gay until you speak to every single Republican about their views doesn’t give me much confidence in her intellect.

  4. 4
    Daniel

    I suspect that the humanist/skeptic/atheist/whatever community probably has a very different view to people admitting fault in the face of strong evidence.

    We like it.

    My perception of other political communities is that they expect an admission of fault to be followed with a ‘voluntary’ resignation or some other form of punishment.

    If you’ve been trained for years on the latter mindset, then crossing over to the former would probably feel like political suicide… When, to us anyway, it isn’t.

    Just my 2c anyway.

  5. 5
    Marella

    And I will not abandon my party because other people have taken it in a direction I disagree with.

    This may sound reasonable but it is exactly what we criticize catholics for doing isn’t it? Sticking with a church composed in too great a part of child rapists and aids-mongers? It is even less admirable in a political affiliation, even Republicans don’t insist you’ll go to hell for eternity for being a Democrat, though in their hearts I’m sure they believe it’s true.

    Nonetheless an excellent suggestion for a way forward for Ms Rogers. I doubt she will take advantage of it.

  6. 6
    Bruce Press

    Ashley,

    I appreciate that you recognize that there might be some value in a non-theist Republican in that position. I think people have not clearly recognized that while the position of Exec Director of the SCA can be a leadership position within the movement, it is more properly directed outside the community. I, personally, am happy to take a wait-and-see as to Ms Rogers effectiveness.

  7. 7
    TheHonestAtheist

    “Wait and see” is a good attitude to have if she does well for us. And a complete disaster if she screws us over, as she has for the last 20 years as a lobbyist for the GOP.

  8. 8
    brucefp

    Are you suggesting that there is any chance she only took the position to undermine the mission of the SCA? Or that her lack of Liberal credentials and former contacts on the national political scene somehow make her incapable of effectively communicating our aims and goals?

  9. 9
    TheHonestAtheist

    I’m not implying that. I’m stating it outright. For the past 20 years, she has worked at the very highest levels of government to implement policies that have worked very hard against our goals. Not once has she donated to an Atheist organization. Not once has she been open about her nontheism. She has not read any Atheist literature, nor been affiliated with any Atheist group until this week.

    Suddenly, without giving any good, believable reason, she is placed at the top of the most important 11 Atheist agencies. It’s outlandish to trust such a person…not because she is a Republican, but because she is a career Republican. Her life-long career and track-record have proven herself to date to be self-promotional and highly invested in promoting causes which are conflicted with the values of our cause: basing values on religion: irresponsible science leading to bad medicine, revisionist history, and self-interested canons of justice.

  10. 10
    Ben Finney

    The mindset you describe – a tendency to respond to a person’s admission of error, especially if the admission is unsolicited, unqualified, and public, by viewing that person more favourably – is not special to this minority. It is fairly universal in society.

    You’re probably right that we in the freethought community profess the need for everyone to admit errors openly, and hold it as a virtue. But the response is not peculiar to us.

    The tragedy is that a person who needs to admit an error has powerful motivations to conceal the error – including the *perception* (usually unfounded) that society will not view them favourably for admittng an error.

    See Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) where Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson go into this and many other scientific findings about humanity’s obsession with self-justification.

  1. 11
    Additional Links Regarding Edwina Rogers

    [...] free to post your questions there!A couple of additional interesting links:Ashley F. Miller writes the sample apology letter she wishes Rogers would send out:My final big mistake is that I’ve been trying to focus [...]

  2. 12
    Matt Dillahunty Weighs In on Edwina Rogers | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] Coalition For… The Right Wing GOP?, Al Stefanelli Attempting the Impossible?, Almost Diamonds What I would like to hear from Edwina Rogers, Ashley F. Miller Controversy comes with the new Secular Coalition for America Executive Director, [...]

  3. 13
    You Can’t Always Get What You Need | Almost Diamonds

    [...] Going through an intermediary, and particularly the disinterested intermediary of non-specialized media, is not a clear way to get your message across. Neither is not having a plan to specifically address the concerns of your specialized media (i.e., atheist bloggers, podcasters, etc.). If you want a look at how the appointment should have been announced, see Matt Dillahunty. If you want a look at what Rogers should have been prepared to face, see Crommunist. If you want a look at what she should have been prepared to say in response, see Ashley Miller. [...]

  4. 14
    » My Two Cents Worth On Edwina Rogers quarkscrew

    [...] is what has really doomed her chances. Matt Dillahunty expressed the general misgivings well, and Ashley Miller gave a great example of the kind of communications that might have mitigated the [...]

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