Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let Them Know Hate Is Not OK

This opinion piece, published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan on August 26, was written by Charlotte Miller, a Friends Committee on National Legislation constituent.

I was deeply saddened by the murder of security guard Stephen Johns at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. It's unfortunate that it sometimes takes a tragic event like this to focus our attention on the very real threat of domestic terrorism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is working hard to track and expose extremists such as the anti-Semitic fanatic who lashed out. In fact, in its latest issue of the Intelligence Report, it warned about a dangerous resurgence of right-wing extremism since President Barack Obama was elected. Lately, Fort Collins, Denver and other Colorado communities have been assailed by hate-filled, extremist pamphlets. This behavior encourages more violent and personal attacks in the community, threatening the safety of us all.

It is important that our law enforcement communities have the latest intelligence on extremists as well as training to combat hate incidents, hate crimes and domestic terrorism. In addition to the Holocaust Museum shooting, there have been the murders of five police officers by extremists in recent months and the assassination of a prominent Kansas physician by an extremist tied to the anti-government militia movement.

These killers might have acted alone, but they were all influenced by the hate movement in America. What's alarming is that this movement is now being aided and abetted by far-right pundits on cable TV and talk radio, who are fanning the flames of hate with their increasingly hysterical rhetoric targeting our president, our government, our immigrant neighbors and others who are not like them. These are the same commentators who ridiculed the recent Department of Homeland Security that predicted the very kind of violent attacks we're now seeing.

We all need to speak out against hate. It is not enough to say that we support free speech. We must speak out against hateful speech and propaganda filled with untruths about people who are different in racial, ethnic, religious identity, as well as language use and political beliefs. If you hear someone saying discriminatory or derogatory things about those who differ from them, please speak up and let them know you disagree with them, and discrimination is not OK.

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