Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hate Speech

Although ostensibly directed at a select group – in this latest case, Jews – hate speech hurts us all. Those who perpetrate it are usually anonymous, not surprisingly, as it is a crime. They hide their identity because they know they are wrong before they even begin. And, because they are cowards, they strike in the darkness and without warning, like terrorists, and like terrorists, their aim is to inspire fear and confusion.

But only in their chosen group.

The rest of us hear of these atrocities and breathe a sigh of relief. This time, it wasn’t OUR group. And next time it might not be, either. We’re safe – so far. And we hunker down just a little bit lower, so that none of our enemies might notice us and get the same idea.

This is what really hurts us – the desire to distance ourselves from the victims. The rest of us could be thinking, “If the terrorists will only concentrate on the Jews (or the gays, or the Catholics) our group might go unnoticed.” These are crazy people, we know, and who knows what religion they might get it into their heads to attack next.

It’s like having a shooter in the building. Perhaps the shooter hates jocks. We can thank our lucky stars we were never jocks, and sneak out the back door. Or maybe he’s going for his History teacher – and whoever is in History class at that moment. Good thing we were in the chem lab!

But if we hunker down and keep a low profile, we might not be attacked, but neither can we be of help to those who have been attacked. And our silence gives nerve and power to the enemy. If nobody stands up to him, he’ll just do it again – sooner. The way to stop bullies is to stand up to them.

Some of you may be familiar with the famous quote from German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller at the time when the Nazi Secret Police were rounding up all the dissidents in Germany.

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

We might add to that:

“Then they came for the Buddhists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Buddhist.

Then they came for the American Indian Lodge,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an American Indian.

Then they came for the Asian Baptists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an Asian Baptist….”

Let us remember the Second Great Commandment as Jesus spoke it, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” and let us speak out against any harm towards our neighbors, the Jews.

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