Friday, November 02, 2007

Another Hate Act at Columbia

A colleague just sent me a New York Times article. In it, it says:
A swastika was found spray-painted on a Jewish professor’s office door yesterday morning at Teachers College at Columbia University, the second time in less than a month that one of the College’s professors has been the target of bias.

The professor, Elizabeth Midlarsky, a clinical psychologist who has done studies on the Holocaust, said the college’s associate provost called to notify her of the swastika... “I see this as an attack of extreme hate and extreme cowardice by someone trying to make a point,” Dr. Midlarsky said yesterday. The police said they had no suspects. On Oct. 10, a noose was found on the office door of Madonna G. Constantine, a black professor at the college.

This news is heartbreaking. To have two such hateful acts of cowardly intimidation--one racist and one anti-semitic--in one month on one campus must be so painful for the students and teachers at Columbia University's Teachers College. My heart goes out to Dr. Elizabeth Midlarsky as it does to Dr. Madonna Constantine. I want them both to know that they are not alone, that people all across the country support them, and also support the basic principles of goodwill, decency, and justice. Like the price of liberty, the price of justice is eternal vigilance. It requires all of us to keep the faith, to not look the other way, to dream over and over again the powerful dream of leaders like Martin Luther King, and to do whatever we can--large or small--that builds community, that heals wounds, that stands in solidarity with the targets of oppression, and that resists the evil that may exist within our own midst and our own hearts.

I'm reminded of when I was six years old and first heard the word "Holocaust." I asked my mother what it meant. What a challenge for a parent. How do you tell your six year old about a murderous regime engaging in an insane, but very calculated extermination campaign that killed six million Jews and five million other people, including other ethnic minorities and oppressed nationalities, gays and lesbians, people with physical and mental disabilities, labor leaders and anti-Nazi resisters. My mom gave me the basic facts, but she also told me the story of how when the Nazi's occupied Denmark and decreed that all Danish Jews needed to sew yellow Stars of David on their clothes, as a way to stigmatize and demoralize the Jewish community, something amazing happened. Thousands and thousands of Danish Gentiles, including the Danish King, sewed Stars of David on their clothes in an act of solidarity with their Jewish neighbors. These Jews and Gentiles stood together as one community that day against a vicious, genocidal dictatorship and said we will not allow the Danish community to be divided. We will stand in solidarity with each other.

I can never thank my mother enough for telling me this story. Through it I understood, as well as a six year old can, the intense evil of the Nazi regime. Yet, I also was given a vision of human beings at their best--standing together for justice, even at great personal risk. My mom told me, "Honey, we are not Jewish, but we always have to stand up for justice with our neighbors who are, along with any other group that is targeted for hate or mistreatment. That's just what good people do."

I am a lucky man to have such a mom. I share this story because I think her perspective is exactly what is needed from all of us now in the face of the two recent hateful acts at Columbia University and in the face of evils such as our own government illegally invading and occupying a country that is no threat to us, displacing four million people, killing close to one million civilians, and wounding many, many more--all for oil and a desire for world domination.

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