• Rich Klein

EDITORIAL: We Must Take Sides...

Last summer, when swastikas were painted in Narrowsburg and Lake Huntington, there was an eerie silence from public officials who could have exerted their moral leadership. Today, we've learned that the N-Word has been used to deface a street sign at SUNY Sullivan and uttered twice by a bigoted public employee in the Village of Monticello. Sullivan County is better than this. If people of goodwill fail to stand up and speak out against hate - whether it's directed at African Americans, Orthodox Jews or a gay couple in Parksville - that will become our identity. How can the WORLD"S birthplace of peace and love in 1969 tolerate this cesspool of hatred? While some may say the swastikas last summer and N-word incidents revealed today are isolated, we see this vile hatred appear every day on Facebook pages. There are certain people in leadership positions in the County who have failed to speak out in 2019 and are failing to speak out today. Last year, for example, Town of Cochecton Supervisor Gary Maas acknowledged the incident when this media outlet called him but he clearly failed to grasp the seriousness of a swastika in his town. He never made a public statement about it or reported on who, if anyone, was prosecuted for a hate crime. Ditto for then-DA Jim Farrell, who lives in the same community, where that hate symbol was painted on a Stop Sign. Today, Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan has an opportunity to take a stand on the 2020 incidents where her mentor did not last August. Ironically, the incidents in Monticello and Loch Sheldrake occur in a news cycle where a police officer in Minneapolis was just taken into custody on Friday after placing his knee on and ultimately killing an African American man who was already subdued. He is being charged with third degree murder. Bigotry starts with ugly, age-old stereotypes and conspiracy theories that often gets passed down through generations. Some take that hared and act out with violence. It's important to understand that what may seem like innocent jokes that take aim at racial, religious and ethnic groups often lead to a culture of hate. And it has no place in our still democratic society. At the same, time a community's response to what appears to be a racist murder, must not include more violence like we've seen in video coming out of Minneapolis. It's beyond tragic that more than a decade after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that innocents are still being harassed, assaulted and murdered for the color of their skin or the religion they follow or their sexual orientation. But in this news cycle locally and nationally, let's try to follow the examples of Martin Luther King and Elie Wiesel whose voices reached the corridors of power and made progress on this virus of bigotry. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.” - Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel

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