We Must Change Nation’s Hateful ToneThis Sunday, February 10, the Orlando Sentinel will feature a new "My Word" column I wrote. I'm posting some of my previous columns from the past few months, here over the next few days...
(from Orlando Sentinel, August 7, 2012)
By Bryan Fulwider
The hate-monger who on Sunday killed six worshipers in the Sikh temple near Milwaukee got his 15 minutes of fame, though he didn't survive to bask in all his deluded, blood-soaked glory. Unfortunately, the ripples from his actions will go on long after his name is forgotten. That’s why hate crimes are so insidious.
Certain aspects of this tragedy are quantifiable. We can count the bodies of those killed. We can determine the number injured. Doctors can provide percentage probabilities concerning recovery.
What we cannot quantify is the heartache, the devastation, the anguish experienced by those who had a loved one murdered. And we can’t quantify the pall of fear — already present, but now greatly exaggerated — that will hover over Sikh communities throughout the U.S. for years to come.
By no means are the Sikhs the only group who are left feeling that danger lurks around every corner. If it can happen to them, it can happen to any minority whose skin color or accent or religious attire draws the attention of those who view violence as the way to settle some imaginary score. All perpetrators’ 15 minutes of fame come at a high price, not only for the victim group but for society as a whole.
A huge price of which, this atrocity reminds us, is the danger of fatalism. Inevitability. Resignation. After all, what can we do to prevent a few deranged humans from engaging in such appalling acts?
I would suggest we can do more than many think. We can individually and collectively work to change the nation’s tone. Let’s start by honoring the “self-evident” truths our Founding Fathers put into this nation’s first document, the Declaration of Independence.
Let’s daily remind ourselves that all people “are created equal,” that all human beings “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” that for every person those rights include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Let’s stop slandering. Rather, let’s refuse to circulate unsubstantiated claims that sound good to us simply because they make some person or group we don’t like look bad.
Let’s remove the hateful words and violent tones that characterize too much of our discourse — because Sunday’s actions suggest that someone with a sick mind may be only too willing to take the tone of our discourse to what seems to him its logical conclusion.
The Rev. Bryan Fulwider is a fellow at the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College and president of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.