Hello, it’s time to fight hate

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Opinion - KEN DIXON Ken Dixon, po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor and colum­nist, can be reached at 203-842-2547 or at [email protected]­post.com. Visit him at twit­ter.com/KenDixonCT and on Face­book at kendixonct.hearst.

What’s an athe­ist goy to do this hol­i­day season, when hate and fear are suck­ing the oxy­gen out of cer­tain dan­ger­ous peo­ple’s brains, and they are act­ing ac­cord­ingly?

Well, yeah, I just came back from a lit­tle meno­rah shop­ping, as Sun­day sun­set will com­mence Hanukkah, the Jewish fes­ti­val of lights, in com­mem­o­ra­tion of a mir­a­cle. It’s time for peo­ple who re­spect the rights and free­doms of oth­ers to take no­tice and ex­pand our cir­cle of sup­port, even as anti-Semites and haters of The Other feel so un­fet­tered to ex­press their un­ac­cept­able prej­u­dices.

I’m think­ing right now of the mas­sacre at the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh. The stream of hate and vi­o­lence, pro­voked and abet­ted by the gun cul­ture, seems never-end­ing.

First-graders at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School; gays in an Or­lando night­club; African Amer­i­cans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church; coun­try mu­sic fans in Las Ve­gas. Can’t th­ese mur­der-sui­cide peo­ple get the or­der right, for once, shoot them­selves first, and do us a fa­vor? All this act­ing out is be­cause of their self-ha­tred, so why not keep the vi­o­lence at home, within?

It’s the haters I hate, and since courtesy and re­spect has gone off the rails in Wash­ing­ton over the last cou­ple years, we have to fight back. The oh-so-dan­ger­ous “car­a­van” of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans seek­ing asy­lum was a con­ve­nient po­lit­i­cal tool around the elec­tion. Now, we’re a coun­try that tear-gases women and chil­dren who are try­ing to es­cape vi­o­lence.

“Build a wall.” Give me a break. The United States should be so much bet­ter and it’s up to right-think­ing in­di­vid­u­als to pitch in. Are you up to it? It doesn’t take much. A ges­ture. A “good morn­ing” to a stranger on the street might be the nicest thing some­one hears all day. So yeah, I’m buy­ing a meno­rah.

Granted, the Christ­mas Tree Shops might not have been the best-ad­vised spot for me to seek an elec­tric can­de­labra to ig­nite one light per night start­ing at sun­set Sun­day, for eight con­sec­u­tive nights. Yeah, the Christ­mas Tree Shops did not have a great rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Mac­cabees’ sa­cred lamp — the meno­rah — which had barely enough oil to keep lighted for one night, but some­how burned for eight.

Hence the mir­a­cle and the rea­son to knock down a big honk­ing pile of potato pan­cakes, ex­change presents with loved ones, and yes, en­joy the free­dom to beckon a de­ity, get down on your knees and pray, or not.

It’s the thoughts that count, so maybe my brief visit to the mea­ger “Jewish sec­tion” of the Christ­mas Tree Shops in Or­ange wasn’t the great­est in­vest­ment in time. But it was a well-in­tended, laugh­ably goy thing to do. And I have a feel­ing that Stam­ford’s late, great Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz would have ap­proved.

I al­most have some solid Jewish roots, for some­one who was never bap­tized — thank you mother and fa­ther — at­tended Uni­tar­ian Sun­day school for a few years half a cen­tury ago, and doesn’t dig much dogma of any kind.

It was the spring of 1966 and Rabbi Ehrenkranz, the spir­i­tual leader of Con­gre­ga­tion Agu­dath Sholom, was try­ing to be a good neigh­bor, to pro­mote the new syn­a­gogue at the cor­ner of Straw­berry Hill Av­enue and Colo­nial Road in Stam­ford. So, they spon­sored a Lit­tle League team for which I, age 12 in base­ball-mad Stam­ford, pitched a cou­ple no-hit­ters, played first base and hit a few home runs.

One af­ter­noon this se­ri­ous scholar, who was co- founder of the Cen­ter for Chris­tian-Jewish Un­der­stand­ing at Sa­cred Heart Univer­sity, and the Syn­a­gogue Coun­cil of Amer­ica’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions, came down the hill into Glen­brook, to our team prac­tice at the Northrup Lit­tle League field, next to Stark School, to say hello.

Of course there was a les­son in Rabbi Ehrenkranz’s ap­pear­ance. He pointed out the print­ing on the front of our team uni­forms: “Sholom.” He ex­plained that it meant peace, then went back up to the syn­a­gogue. In Fe­bru­ary, he will have been dead five years.

Sooner or later I hope to find a photo of me, wear­ing that shirt, among the boxes of fam­ily ar­ti­facts left af­ter the death of my par­ents.

Th­ese days I find my­self say­ing hello to nearly ev­ery­one with whom I have eye con­tact. In the State Capi­tol, for sure. But in the park­ing lot at the Stop and Shop, on the side­walk in down­town Bridge­port. Con­tact, com­mis­er­a­tion, con­ver­sa­tion.

Bring it on, racists, ho­mo­phobes, anti-Semites. Time to fight back.

Kevin Geil/San Antonio Ex­press-News

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