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The ugly four-letter word

Hate. It’s an ugly word. But it’s also a reality in the times in which we live, as evidenced by the recent postings of anti-Semitic flyers in Millerton, Amenia and Dover as well as in Lakeville, Conn.

The posters, which did everything from praise Hitler to accuse Jews of the devastation of Sept. 11, were more than distasteful, they were deplorable. That anyone could try to curry favor by persecuting any racial, ethnic or religious group is extremely troubling — especially in what is known as the most accepting and democratic country in the world.

Unfortunately, the election of our new president seems to have turned the tides on what’s acceptable behavior in our nation. Donald Trump won on a platform of fear mongering and intolerance, and his victory was a defeat for so many who pride themselves on the philosophy that all men are created equal. 

Trump’s accusations against Mexicans and Muslims, for example, emboldened those who already harbored hate in their heart. But what one local politician said is true: Trump’s presence didn’t create the problem, it merely encouraged those who already felt animosity to fully embrace their hate — and to go public with it. It’s not a good way to begin the four-year term of who is now the most powerful leader in the free world.

What must others think of the United States now? Civil rights here were so hard fought for and are still being sought. We still have to bridge the divide among all races. We still have to resolve religious intolerance. We still have to obtain full equal rights for women and the LGBTQ community — but at least we’re a nation that’s aware of its deficiencies and trying to become better.

There’s no place for hate in our society. It seeks to intimidate through cowardly actions. It relishes other people’s pain. But hate is merely an outward manifestation of one’s own inadequacies. With that realization hate’s power is diminished. But it still hurts — emotionally, physically — and it could turn downright dangerous.

The hanging of anti-Semitic posters in our local towns and villages proves that a dialogue must begin to search for peaceful ways to resolve conflict. There are ways to engage in such a conversation: in our schools, in our towns, in our local organizations aimed at sharing non-violent ideologies. 

That there was an immediate outcry when the hate posters were discovered is a positive sign. Most people living here are not willing to accept such attitudes or behaviors, and that’s a very good thing. 

The police investigation into the flyers is now closed, as there were no real crimes committed. That’s the law. Spray-painted swastikas or broken windows would have been another story — thankfully that wasn’t the case. But reporting such incidents is critical, so they can be tracked and recorded and then, hopefully, addressed. 

As an independently owned community newspaper, we staunchly stand by and support the First Amendment right to free speech — including hate speech — yet we hope that right is both respected and honored. It may be legal to spew out anti-Semitic or any other racist rhetoric, but remember, words count. 

So please, use words wisely. Express dissatisfaction about the world, about life, about the status quo, in productive and non-violent ways. There are such ways, if one only takes the time to discover them. Most of all, don’t be cruel. Hate is cruel, and it leads to nothing good.