Wednesday, March 8, 2017

EDITORIAL: Stop the Madness

I’ve sat on the idea of this article for over a week. However, as each new day brings new news stories, I’ve had to make a decision of whether to actually sit down and write this. There has been a lot of thinking going on with regard to writing this down and taking the heat that comes with it. And there will be a lot of heat. With this article, I am calling out all the cowards who spew their hate behind their perverted sense of the First Amendment.

George’s article last week was one of the reasons that I held off on writing this. George is our resident opinion guy, and I write the less serious stuff. Plus, this article so closely echoes what he wrote that I didn’t want to step on his toes. However, in the last few days, there has been enough of this hatred in the news that I felt I had to address it.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen rising examples of unmitigated hatred infecting society as a whole. It’s been going on for a very long time, but now, with 24/7 news and everyone on social media, the problems are rearing their very ugly heads. And people are excusing their reprehensible behavior by claiming it is their free speech. Free speech is not only a right, it is a responsibility.

One of the first things that caught my eye with regard to all the hate right now in our country was the desecration of a couple Jewish cemeteries. There were almost 200 stones destroyed or damaged in a cemetery near St. Louis, and another 100 in a burial ground near Philadelphia. This all comes in the wake of countless bomb hoaxes called in about synagogues across the country.

Any desecration of any cemetery, regardless of any religious affiliation, should never be tolerated by a civilized world. Some people may attempt to write these types of events as youthful exuberance, and that may be partially true. But we need to educate people on how intolerance and petty destruction are not acceptable.

There was a study done recently that ranked the most racist cities in the country. Amazingly, Buffalo was very close to the top of this list. I say amazingly because I would never have guessed that. New York seems pretty progressive socially. But, alas, I was wrong and the study was correct.

Just this past weekend, there was an article in the Buffalo News about a church building in Pembroke being graffitied with racial slurs. The New Creation Fellowship Church in Cheektowaga owns a building in Pembroke which has been used as storage. Last Sunday, the graffiti was discovered in spray paint along the entire side of the building. The slogan? “NCF Anzei are N***** Lovers.”

I was completely dumbfounded by this. How can people in 2017 still be reacting this way? I thought our society was supposed to grow and learn and get better. Instead of being liberating, we’ve regressed into petty arguments and vile words. The internet was supposed to help us get smarter. Instead, we seem to be getting dumber by the post.

This stuff is happening everywhere. It’s happening in our own backyards. Sunday, Howie Balaban wrote about the controversy around a drive-in theater in Alabama opting not to show the new, live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie because one of the characters is gay. That drive-in made a far bigger deal out of it that it ever needed to be.

The story made news all over the country. Even in Buffalo, it made it to the WIVB website. As part of their story, the owner of the Transit Drive-In in Lockport was quoted from its Facebook page:

"We believe that families should make their own choices on which movies are appropriate for their children to see themselves, and not be subjected to the censorship of others. We choose our movie lineups based primarily upon anticipated popularity and earning potential, and never our personal, political, or religious beliefs."

Immediately, the comments came flying in. There was not much civil discourse. There was a lot of hate, because that’s what we do when we disagree. It is now the American way to denigrate people who think differently than we do. And if someone attempts to defend themselves, they’re “stupid morons.” Then there will be retaliation, which results in more retaliation. Ultimately, we end up with a lot of rhetoric, a lot of yelling, and almost no actual conversation.

The Transit Drive-In, to their credit, did not stoop to those childish levels shown by most people who commented. I would guess that it took a lot of restraint, especially after one despicable person resorted to attacking the theater owner’s religious background.

Of course, the people who engage in these tactics see nothing wrong with anything they’re saying or typing. (And there’s a lot of typing. Lots of keyboard warriors who hide anonymously.) Their friends see no issues, either. They are proud of their xenophobia. They wear it like a badge.

It is not okay to propagate hate. It’s not something you should be proud of. Having a different point of view, a different belief, or a different religion doesn’t make the other person any less a person. It’s well past the time we all realize that. Not everyone who doesn’t think exactly the same way as you is your enemy. Our American culture is strongest when we continue to bond over even our differences. We seem to have forgotten that.

As I leave you, today, I would like to draw your attention to the two young boys in Kentucky who made the news this past week. Pre-schooler, Jax Rosebush, asked his mother to cut his unruly blonde hair just like his friend, Reddy’s haircut. They wanted to trick their teacher by switching roles. It is a cute story that shows me there is still some hope in the world. You can read that story here: Boys Trick Teacher

Craig Bacon doesn’t throw up a boycott whenever he doesn’t like a movie or a song. He simply moves on to something he does like. Yes, it is that simple.