Editorial: Intolerance is the real threat to our nation

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

When did inclusion become threatening to a small but frightening portion of our countrymen?

When did it become okay to pass off bigoted and callous acts of vandalism to youthful indiscretion?

When did we cross the line that someone’s middle name or looks become the subject of scorn and means more than their politics when deciding on a candidate?

Those, of course, are rhetorical questions but in the wake of recent news and events, they are hardly isolated incidents and are worthy of discussion.

A rainbow flag that has flown at the United First Parish Church in downtown Quincy to show support for gays was taken down and burned some time over the weekend.

It is the second time a rainbow flag has been vandalized at the church since officials first raised it four years ago. In August, the flag and pole were stolen and never recovered.

Why does anyone feel so threatened by alternative lifestyles and a church’s outreach to that segment of the population to vandalize a simple act of inclusion under the cover of darkness? This is no different from the act of vandalism last year when someone stole the red flag of the People’s Republic of China that flew atop the Chinese United Association in Wollaston.

Read some of the entries in the comment section of the story on our Web site and the vitriol and intolerance for gays and anything to do with acceptance or understanding of the lifestyle is palpable. It seems the anonymity of the Internet emboldens people to express their darkest side.

We are supposed to be bigger than that. When we disagree with something, the Constitution gives us the right to voice our opposition. Why resort to terrorist activities?

This comes on the heels of a Silver Lake Regional High School student putting up posters with swastikas to protest a program at the school to foster student pride.

School principal Richard Kelly said the teen, who was charged with defacing public property and disturbing a school assembly, was not suspended because he was not acting out of malice.

But it appears he was acting out of ignorance How, in this day and age, can a high school student not understand the brutality and pain and horror the swastika represents for millions of people around the world? Why else choose that symbol if not to send a message of fear?

It is not without irony that the flag-burning occurred at the Church of Presidents, which houses the crypts of one of the framers of the Constitution and his son, one of the leading 19th century voices on minority rights.

This undercurrent of meanness and incivility is manifesting itself in this year’s presidential election. The derisiveness that Barack Obama’s opponents display in focusing on his middle name and tying him to terrorists because of it is mind-boggling. And it is on the same line as those who dismiss the seriousness of Sarah Palin because she entered beauty pageants to earn scholarship money to be able to afford school.

We have, for a longer time than any of us cares to admit, headed down this path of viciousness and personal attacks to undermine and defeat those whose politics and lifestyles we least like. It is disheartening.

Perhaps, once the election has passed, we can begin to repair our divisions no matter who the victor is. We hope the person who is elected can set a tone that says our country and our politics are big enough to allow all our citizens to live without feeling threatened no matter their views. And then we all win.

The Patriot Ledger