While reading my local news this morning, I came across the following headline and my heart cracked a little.
Walnut Street Bridge, parts of art district vandalized with swastikas
I started to share the post on my Facebook page with a simple caption of “What a way to lead into the high holy days😔 ” when I realized there is a larger story to be shared here. The newspaper’s story is about vandalism and the response by Mayor Andy Berke, an elected official who happens to also be Jewish.
I believe the story is bigger than that though. The real story here is about the mental state and thought process of the perpetrators that led them to buy the paint, walk to the Walnut Street bridge, press the tip of the bottle and create such a renown symbol of hate for all the city to see.
We must stop fanning the flames of hate in our society.
What did they think before they left their house to buy the paint? How long had this hateful act been simmering in their thoughts and brain before they took action? What pushed them over the edge from thought to action?
The answer to these is much more complex than any of us will know without asking them directly (and the investigation into their identities is ongoing) but the way I see it there are two real options:
- They are totally ignorant to the true hurtfulness this symbol causes to the Jewish population
- They are fully aware of the the hurt and hate this represents
In either case, they are either walking through life in two states I never want to live in: ignorance or full of hate.
We must stop fanning the flames of hate in our society. This is not ok. It will never be ok. This is not a peaceful sign of protest or free speech. It is hate speech. It is keeping alive the worst treatment of human beings in our world’s history. This is not ok.
As the High Holy Days begin later this week, this action of hate makes me glad that my synagogue is still closed due to COVID19. While it will be very odd to experience this most sacred of holidays without being surrounded by a Jewish community, this vandalism is the exact example of why I would be hesitant to attend in person even if I could.
No, I don’t want to give a bully the satisfaction of knowing their intimidation tactics worked and I became fearful, but I also don’t want to risk my life to prove the point – a point I should not have to make – that I have the freedom to worship peacefully as I choose.
Yet even with this evidence of hate in front of me, I do not hate people who did it. I am mad at them, I am hurt by them and I saddened for them. Their mental state is far weaker and more vulnerable than mine because a strong, self-aware and confident person does not feel the need to tear others down and be hateful in order to make their voice heard and feelings known.
They set out to incite and spread hate. They failed in their mission – at least so far as this proud Southern Jewish is considered.
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