Two years ago – just before the 2020 election – I wrote a column expressing hope that the country would settle down and come together after the vote was counted. I had no idea that we’d still be talking about that election as we head toward the midterms in 2022.
When you read this column, you may have already voted, or know the outcome of the election. Let’s hope that this time we all accept the results and move on.
Unfortunately, I’m much more pessimistic about the country’s ability to do so now.
In the past two years, we have seen vicious demonstrations, terrible language, misinformation, more open hostility toward one another and a politicization of issues large and small.
It seems that if we disagree with our neighbors, we can no longer have a civil discussion that doesn’t become politicized.
How are we ever going to move forward as a country when the left and right – and sometimes those in between – insist on arguing, blaming one another and being so suspicious?
Where is the middle ground?
Out of this deep mistrust and hostility, old forms of hatred have reared their ugly heads. Again. It has been a pattern throughout history. When the opposition becomes the enemy, you start to hear more and more people looking for someone to blame for their misfortunes, grievances or perceived mistreatment.
If you follow the news at all – and you should try to stay informed, using as many different sources as possible – you know that antisemitism is on the rise. Again.
Groups previously in the shadows now feel empowered to stand in plain sight with disrespectful and despicable messages. Some celebrities and politicians have decided that they need to express opinions that used to be taboo to mass audiences through social media. Educated people use their skills to “disprove” history. Too many simply stay silent while acts of antisemitism increase on college campuses. It’s all bubbling to the surface. Again.
Of course, a few people are condemning this hate. But are these the right people? Are these voices loud enough? And why aren’t more of our leaders speaking out? Where is the chorus of elected officials standing up for the rights of the minority?
Calling out lies, hatred and antisemitism are the kinds of things leaders do. That’s what defines a leader in the United States of America.
We need to elect people who are willing to lead; who are willing to say enough is enough; who are willing to shut down hatred.
We need to educate ourselves and our neighbors so more people know how to respond to misinformation and hatred – and do so.
Those of us in the Jewish community cannot be the only ones to say this has to stop. Hatred and antisemitism has become so mainstream that the average person no longer feels it necessary to step up to say it’s wrong and has to stop.
This is really not a political issue. This is simply about doing what is right. What is right never changes.
If we want a better world, then hate cannot be a part of it. We have to remain engaged. We have to vote. We have to speak up. We have to talk to each other in a civil manner. We have to listen. We have to lead.
We owe this to our friends, our neighbors, our community and our children. Standing up and speaking out, supporting one another and the institutions and traditions that bind us, getting involved and taking the lead – these are the actions that will keep hatred from dragging all of us down.
Silence is just not acceptable.
Fran Ostendorf, Editor