Sheldon: There’s been a rise in hate crimes in our country, and words aren’t enough to combat it (column)
Recently, B’nai Vail held a Shabbat service and vigil/memorial for the 11 victims of the synagogue shooting on Saturday, Oct. 27, in Pittsburgh. I would personally like to thank all of those involved. It was a very moving and emotional night.
Anger gave way to tears for me as I was surrounded by congregation and community members. I was overwhelmed with sadness; sad that our country has devolved to the point of violence against Jews, African Americans and other minorities; sad that besides token lip service, I feel our leaders don’t really care; sad that in a week this, too, would be forgotten.
The community outpouring was outstanding, and our clergy, priests and fathers, law enforcement officials and city councilmen spoke so many kind and meaningful words. Again, I thank you all dearly; there are too many of you to name personally.
But words, while important, are not getting it done for me today — or any day, for that matter. And my sadness will once again revert to anger.
I need fists pounding pulpits and spittle flying from the mouths of our leaders, proclaiming that this is not acceptable in America. I need newer and tougher laws against hate crimes. I need million-person marches. I need protests and demonstrations like only outraged and fed-up Americans can stage.
And I need someone to say they had some part in this, that something they have done, said or written has contributed to the undeniable, fact-based rise in hate crimes that we have seen the past two years. The blame game needs to be replaced by the culpability game. Rehabilitation starts with admittance.
We have allowed this to happen in America. We have not done enough to condemn or halt hate speech, hate marches and hate media. People who march and chant, “Jews will not replace us” are not “fine people.” Never. How can anyone ever forget that the leader of the free world actually uttered those words? How can anyone ever forgive those words, and how can anyone fail to see that they were a rallying cry for neo-Nazis in our country?
One might argue that the First Amendment protects such speech and demonstrations. But I would argue the “crying fire in a theater” analogy. Our mothers, fathers and fellow countrymen and women did not die fighting the Nazis to allow Neo Nazi hate groups to fester in our country. To me, they are the enemy of the people, not the free press. Why are we not calling them out for what they truly are more forcefully? Kneeling athletes in America are getting more press than murdered minorities.
I have dreaded that this day would come my entire life; as a Jew, it is our worst fear. We go about our merry days, raising our kids, working our jobs and careers and actively participating in our communities. But buried deep beneath that is the fear that one day we will be targeted; one day again. And blamed again. And scapegoated again. And forced to leave our homeland again. And slaughtered again — just for being Jewish. Just like the 80 family members of mine in Europe who were murdered by the Nazis. It is an unfortunate part and reality of our history.
B’nai Vail’s service and vigil were great. But it is going to take a lot more to fix this America. On the surface, I have faith. I have always had faith in America, the land of the free and home of the brave. But deep down, I am afraid — very afraid. We say “never again” in our faith. I’m not so sure.
I call on my fellow countrymen and women to stand up and remind us, lift us up and ensure us that “this land is my land, this land is your land … this land was made for you and me.”
Steve Sheldon is an Eagle resident.
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