It has been disheartening to see the dramatic increase in acts of hate that have taken place over the last several months. Our political climate is as divided as ever, and unfortunately, this divide has allowed hatred to flourish. These acts of hate are not isolated towards one group of people but are instead launched at all minorities, including Jews, African Americans, immigrants of any origin, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. When I see these attacks, whether they are against my own religion or against any other group of people, I feel pain. I see a deliberate attempt to put others down, to desecrate their beliefs. While nothing can completely heal that pain, I do feel some sense of comfort in the tremendous support that I see from the surrounding community immediately following these terrible acts.
Almost two weeks ago, I saw a video that had gone viral on Facebook of a man selling Swastika T-shirts on the University of Southern California campus. While he claimed his intent was not hateful, the sign that he displayed is a spark of fear, dread, and terror to Jews, as six million of us were slaughtered under it. No matter what the sign’s origins may be, the horrible acts of the Nazis forever changed its meaning. In displaying that sign, the vendor was displaying a sign of hatred and instilling fear in all those around him. Fortunately, my friend Ilana saw that sign and took action. She bravely spoke out against the display of hatred, and immediately, many other students rallied behind her. Ultimately, the vendor was asked to leave campus.
Last Monday, at a Jewish cemetery less than five minutes from my own university campus, over 200 tombstones were destroyed in an act of vandalism. The perpetrator’s identity may be unknown, but his message is clear: Jews deserve no respect. I was sitting in class when I saw the news of this destruction, and I had to hold back tears. While nothing can change the horror of what happened, I was truly grateful to see the flood of support from the local and national community. A Muslim group’s fundraiser to help rebuild the cemetery raised over $100,000, and politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Vice President Pence and Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay, visited the cemetery to help the cleanup effort.
When President Trump passed his Muslim-targeting immigration ban, millions of people were devastated. The U.S. closed its borders to refugees fleeing from violence. Thousands of legal residents were prevented from entering the country. People who were en route to America were told when they landed that they would not be allowed to enter, despite having previously approved visas. When the news broke, thousands of protestors immediately headed to airports to oppose the ban. Many lawyers sat on the floors of airports, volunteering their time and expertise to help those affected. The president tried to close America off to diversity, and in doing so brought millions of people of different races and faiths together.
The day after the inauguration of President Trump, who ran his campaign on divisiveness, offensive statements, and flat-out bigotry, millions came together for perhaps the largest political demonstration of all time. People of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and religions came out together with one united message: we will not stand for hatred! President Trump’s rhetoric and policies may exist with the sole intent of dividing this country further, but on his first day in office, we saw our people united like never before.
The point of all of these stories is this. No matter how hard anyone tries to do harm to anyone, whether it be through hate speech, violence, policy, or political rhetoric, he or she will fail. When one person hates, his or her neighbors will come out in droves with a clear reminder that this is not who we are. In the long run, those who unite will always accomplish more than those who choose to isolate themselves in a bubble of hatred. We are the United States of America, and no matter how hard they may try to divide us, we will always be stronger together.