Over the past few weeks in this country there has been a disturbing rise in hate-filled acts against minorities. I read about students who openly bully other students of color in their schools. I read news stories about vandalism of the ugliest kind and threats to Muslims at their places of worship or on the street. I listen to reports of desecration of Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats to JCCs, many of which seem organized to frighten and humiliate. I wonder what’s happening in this country. As a Jewish person who has long taught students about the Holocaust and its cost to the Jewish people and humanity, I am appalled, but honestly, I am also a little afraid.
The idea of “political correctness” has been a thorn in the side of many people, and I’m no Pollyanna to think that hatred and prejudice are eradicated because we demand that others’ beliefs and customs and sexuality and gender be respected. I don’t see this as being “politically correct”. It is a part of being a good person – showing civility and treating others in the manner that you wish to be treated. It’s common decency. It’s kindness.
I am heartened, however, that there are many people who are actively fighting against discrimination, whether it’s by donating money to organizations, writing letters to congressmen, going to rallies or just speaking out against prejudice in its many forms.
America is a nation where freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom to learn and freedom from tyranny are the ideals that make our country great.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller (Protestant pastor who died in a concentration camp).