March 17, 2017

Editorial

Hatred has no place in America

Perhaps the best part of President Donald J. Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28 was his decision to begin it with a condemnation of bigotry.

He said, “Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done. Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

Unfortunately, most of the commentary about the president’s address ignored this opening statement, apparently considering other parts of the speech more important. The secular media should have given it more emphasis because the president was pointing out a problem that shouldn’t exist in the United States in the 21st century.

He was referring specifically to at least 16 bomb threats in 11 states of Jewish community centers, including the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis—all on the same day—Feb. 27. The vandalism of Jewish cemeteries occurred in Missouri and Pennsylvania. With so many incidents occurring in so many cities in 11 states, this seems to have been organized by someone.

If anyone thought that anti-Semitism was a thing of the past, they have to think again.

But it’s not only Jews who are the targets of hate. An editorial in Our Sunday Visitor says that the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that there were 917 active hate groups in the United States in 2016. Neo-Nazi chapters, white supremacy and anti-Muslim groups each numbered about 100. There were 78 racist skinhead groups, and 10 Holocaust denial groups.

There is just an awful lot of hate out there.

That’s clear from the case of the man in Kansas that President Trump referred to in his speech. On Feb. 22, this man shot two men from India, killing one of them, while shouting, “Get out of my country!” Then, before he was arrested, he reportedly bragged that he had shot “two Iranians.” That they were Indians instead of Iranians probably didn’t make any difference to him; they weren’t like him, so they didn’t belong in “my country.”

While we applaud the president for condemning hate and evil in his talk, we can’t let him off the hook completely. Statements he made, and actions he took during his campaign and since his presidency began, clearly have added to the climate of divisiveness that exists in our country.

We would like to suggest that President Trump do more than condemn hate and evil. It would help if he could get his law enforcement agencies to closely watch those 917 active hate groups just as vigorously as he has instructed them to do to undocumented immigrants. Of course, we recognize that nothing can be done about those groups as long as they only preach their messages of hate and don’t violate any laws.

What can we do to counteract bigotry? As usual, Pope Francis has a suggestion. On Feb. 9, he met with a delegation from the Anti-Defamation League. He told them, “Faced with too much violence spreading throughout the world, we are called to a greater nonviolence, which does not mean passivity, but active promotion of the good. Indeed, if it is necessary to pull out the weeds of evil, it is even more vital to sow the seeds of goodness: to cultivate justice, to foster accord, to sustain integration, without growing weary; only in this way may we gather the fruits of peace.”

He went on to tell the Jewish group that the remedies against hatred are information and formation, opportunity for everyone, and promoting culture and religious freedom.

Let’s remember that the Fifth Commandment forbids more than killing. As the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults teaches us, it “also forbids other sins: bigotry and hatred, physical or emotional abuse, and violence of any kind against another person” (p. 401).

Hatred toward others has no place in America.

—John F. Fink

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