Our duty to speak out against hatred

Published 11:14 am Thursday, November 16, 2023

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Unless one is Jewish, the angst that the growing antisemitism in our country creates for Jews is unfathomable.

Jewish Americans have endured disdain, distrust and mockery for generations. Every slight and slander that you have heard, or overheard, they have experienced beyond our imagination.

Yet, who among us has spoken up when someone in our presence uttered a slur against Jews? One of the most common in our parts might be to “Jew him down,” a reference, should anyone need an explanation, to getting someone to reduce their price for a product, as in, “I Jewed him down.”

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It is a comment that tells us a great deal about the person who uses it.

Aside from the obvious—that the speaker is an inconsiderate, perhaps ignorant, person who is repeating what they heard as a child and later in school or on the job—there is the unspoken acceptance to reckon with. 

Maybe there is laughter, which sometimes makes people believe something is acceptable, when it is not.

Accepting with silence the hatred and belittling of a particular segment of people must surely be a sin. How can it not be? I am the last person in the room capable of quoting Bible scriptures despite my mother’s most fervent wishes, but I bet if she were alive and I asked her what the Bible says about hatred of our fellow man and woman, she would reel off half a dozen scriptures faster than you can say “First John 2:9.”

Yet, there is a building cloud of antisemitism in our country, maybe even right here in what all of us feel is the grandest place in America to live. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks this kind of stuff, said there was a 316 percent increase in the number of reported antisemitic incidents in the U.S. from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7.

When politicians can publicly use the same language that the greatest exterminator of Jews in history used without hearing a thundering voice of “STOP,” the pot of trouble is brewing.

This isn’t a case of someone being “offended” by words that are hurtful. This can’t be excused by saying “They’re just a bunch of snowflakes.” Antisemitism is hate.

Oh sure. You might be thinking that, of course we know there are hateful people in our country. These people might say hateful things, but this is America. We have the First Amendment. We have freedom of speech, right?

But don’t we also have a right to speak up in the face of hatred? Of antisemitism? Yes. We have more than a right. We have a duty. If we don’t, we are allowing ourselves to absorb the hate, which in turn will destroy us.

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com.