We must name hate and bigotry for what they are, and uproot them in all their forms. We are at a critical moment in our country. And the longer we wait the more irreversible the damage becomes.
ELIE Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference … We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The Nazis came to power in Germany because of the bystanders as much as the perpetrators. And today, none of us can be bystanders. Silence is guilt. Once again, as we careen further down the path of division, far too many of us are silent.
The line of what is acceptable to us as a nation has lurched and crept, in troubling ways, over the past decade. And those shifts, large and small, have brought us to this time when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, reflecting on the events in Charlottesville, said, “Let’s think about where we are today. Not one ounce of property damage, not one person went to the hospital outside of the car incident.”
The “car incident” in which Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman standing up to hate, was killed when a neo-Nazi deliberately plowed into a crowd of protesters. We have crossed into dangerous territory when the murder of only one peaceful protester and the injuring of 19 people in an act of domestic terrorism comes to be seen as, perhaps, expected, if not acceptable, collateral damage.
Seattle Jewish leaders In solidarity with this Op-Ed
Rabbi Dana Benson
Rabbi Jill Borodin
Rabbi Dan Bridge
Rabbi Ben Hassan
Rabbi David Lipper
Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer
Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
Rabbi Paula Rose
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum
Amee Huppin Scherer
Rabbi Callie Schulman
Rabbi Daniel Weiner
Rabbi Zari Weiss
Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick
This is where we are today. Heyer died standing up to unbridled hate. She died doing what we all must be doing in every home, in every neighborhood, in every town. We must name hate and bigotry for what they are, and uproot them in all their forms. We are at a critical moment in our country. And the longer we wait the more irreversible the damage becomes.
We are obligated to call on our leaders, no matter their party affiliation, to stand against bigotry and racist ideologies. We must call on them to be accountable to our nation’s highest values and to our system of justice, which was created to protect the fabric of our civil society — to protect the people who call the United States their home. We must call on those same leaders and demand they consistently and unequivocally denounce the rhetoric and actions of hatred and bigotry — and that they take the necessary steps to back up those words.
People who support and condone white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the extreme right must have no safe harbor in our country. Our leaders — of all party affiliations — must explicitly call them out by denouncing their immoral beliefs and their dangerous actions.
There is no moral equivalency between neo-fascists and those who oppose them. We must not accept this dangerous sleight of hand, nor tepid condemnations unaccompanied by meaningful action — especially from the empowered and the powerful. We know from our history as Americans and as Jews where this road can lead. We must not allow our people or our country to repeat mistakes the world has already made.
Now is a time when each of us must stand up and speak out. We must hold one another accountable and speak unmistakably against all forms of hate, with no room for interpretation. Torches, clubs, swastikas and symbols of the Confederacy are unequivocal messages. For those of us who reject that message, we must speak just as clearly.
The arc of history may bend toward justice, but it does so only because of our choices as individuals and our actions as a community.