Tonight I went to a memorial service for a local Sikh named Balbir Singh Sodhi. Balbir was shot 3 times September 15, 2001 outside his business by a guy who thought he was being patriotic and killing Muslims. Sikhs are not Muslims, but they wear turbans and beards. I was in Clearwater so don't know a lot about this case, but I learned some tonight.
Immediately after news of his shooting was broadcast, many people in the community brought flowers, cards, notes, and words of sympathy to Balbir's business. Tonight I was quite surprised to see how elaborate the one year memorial was. It was in a Mesa city park, and I'm sure there were about 1500 people there. There was a set of sky lights, a big stage with 2 huge TV monitors, a stage in back for the press, a memorial area on the side for the other people in the US killed for being or appearing to be Muslim after 9-11, and chairs for maybe 500 people. Sikhs at the entrance handed out nice booklets eulogizing Baldir. Representatives from the Mormons, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs spoke. The county attorney spoke, and the state attorney sent a letter that was read. The US representative J D Hayworth and the head of the UN sent letters of condolence. The ambassador of India sent a representative. So, you get the picture? A humble innocent man dies needlessly, and the community and society rally to commemorate and to pledge to prevent such needless deaths.
Now think about Lisa McPherson. Who was her community? Scientology for sure, and perhaps Clearwater as well, since she did some community service type stuff there and lived there. What happened when Lisa died needlessly? Did Scientology hold a memorial for her? Not that I've ever heard, but Brian Anderson went to Dallas for her funeral and allegedly talked Lisa's mom into cremating the body. Tampa Trib. reporter Cheryl Waldrip told me one reason she became interested in Lisa's story is because she went back and noticed that there wasn't even an obituary for Lisa.
How about a year later? Did Scientology or Clearwater commemorate Lisa's needless death? No.
Of course I understand the differences between Baldir Singh Sodhi's situation and Lisa McPherson's. But having been one of the people who organized memorials for Lisa, the event tonight really struck me. I see an average person who died for no reason, and I see the community rise up and say this should not have happened and we will remember Baldir Singh Sodhi. And by contrast I see the Scientology community trying to not just forget about Lisa, but actually to deny anything bad happened! I see the Clearwater community mostly indifferent, although we did have up to 120 people at the candlelight vigils in her memory there.
We need to remember Lisa McPherson. We need to remember Roxanne Friend, Noah Lottick, and all the others who died needlessly at the hands of Scientology. If the memory of their lives dies, then it's that much more probable that others may literally die as well.
next International Protest Dec. 7, 2002. www.primenet.com/~cultxpt/demo.htm