Friday, June 12, 2009

Hate As a Profession

When I was a little girl we lived in a blue collar town surrounded by restricted communities. For those who don’t remember the days when Jews and Blacks and often Catholics, weren’t welcome in places called “Christian Communities,” they were usually upscale enclaves where people felt comfortable with their “own.” And it wasn’t me and my family. The interesting thing is that I recently reunited with a high school friend who converted to Judaism and lived in one of those places, called “Lake Valhalla.” I mentioned that I thought it was funny that she chose to be a Jew after having grown up in a place where they couldn’t buy property and she asked me what I was talking about.

“You lived in a place with a sign on the gates that said it was a ‘Christian Community ’ what did you think that meant?” I said. She was astounded. “I had no idea that it meant other people couldn’t live there” she answered.

And that’s how it was. Anti-Semitism, no matter how subtle, and this wasn’t, existed and on certain levels, flourished, not very long ago. There were isolated incidents, like in school when we sang Christmas Carols (Boonton NJ never heard of separation of Church and State) that the Jewish kids had to stand in the back. But in my class it was me, Andy Hurwitz, and my cousin Stevie, and everyone wanted to stand with us. And there were occasions when people passing by the Jewish Center/Temple, shouted things like “Kike go home” and “Dirty Jew,” but I was so young I didn’t know why I needed to go home or how I got dirty, so it didn’t have any long lasting effect. In fact, it wasn’t until I went to Yad Vashem in Israel (the memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in concentration camps,) that I had any sense of ‘there but for God go I.’ It was beyond my comprehension to understand why someone who didn’t know me wouldn’t like me. But the Nazi’s didn’t know the people they tortured and murdered and still 6 million strangers died at the hands of people who hated them—for no personal reason.

Which brings us to the murder yesterday at the Holocaust Museum. An African American employee at the museum was gunned down by an 88 year old White Supremacist. The murderer was shot by other guards and he remains in critical condition. What he remains in is a state of hatred so all encompassing that he took a rifle into a peaceful tourist venue and killed whoever he saw that didn’t look like him. The person who feels, there but for God go I, wants him to die before he gets off with an insanity plea. The person who I like to think I am, surprisingly, feels the same way because I don’t think anyone who has spent 88 years hating me and people who are different from neo Nazi’s, gets to go anywhere but Hell. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

We have lived our lives teaching our children to respect individual differences. I even designed an entire TV network campaign (Erase the Hate) based on that idea. But I never want my children or the people I love to feel threatened by that kind of unrelenting hatred. Can you imagine spending your entire life so angry at other people that the only way to resolve it is to shoot them. Not a concept I’m comfortable with.

It turns out that James W von Braun, who is a lunatic about subjects like the Holocaust, spent 6 years in jail because he was caught with weapons at a Federal Reserve Board meeting in 1981. He wanted to take Board members hostage because there were high interest rates—now there’s a reason to have the right to bear or is it bare arms. (I’m never sure which makes the most sense). But this deeply disturbed bigot was released to continue his campaign of hatred.

OK, so I want the guy to disappear. I don’t wish him or any of his pals a good life. Speaking of subtle anti-Semitism, I thought this was a pretty important story. In most papers it was front page. In the NY Times, however, which I think continues to be biased about Israel and her Arab neighbors – you can see it in the pictures they chose, did a mention below the fold in today’s paper, and continued the story on p. 16. (after the Chrysler story and the one about executive pay.) Maybe it’s me (often it is), but I think a hate crime, (especially when someone dies), at one of the most important tourist sites in the US, deserves to be discussed on the front page of all major newspapers and at the top of the agenda on TV. For once, it’s something we really ought to talk about. We’re just sayin’….Iris

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