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It Is High Time We Hold Our Politicians On Both Sides Of The Aisle Accountable For Spreading Hate & Fear, Adler Says
By Paul Adler
I sat down to write an Op-Ed about how and why the social fabric of civility is ripping at the political level. It seems to me the problem begins here: Our politicians introduce hate and prejudice by saying whatever they can to gin up a tidal wave of fear to help carry them to victory.
Their words trickle down to members of the community — the little league coach, mechanic, parent waiting to pick their kid up after school. They, in turn, absorb some, if not all, of that prejudice and hate. From there, they transmit this highly contagious bile downstream even further to those most innocent – our children.
That we are hearing reports of swastikas being scratched into school desks and racist invectives being hurled by high schoolers at basketball games against black players should come as no surprise. The rise in antisemitism spreading here and globally comes at a time when Israel is at war with Hamas and there is great unrest in the Middle East.
The social fabric of civility in the United States is rending at the seams, and it is high time we hold our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, accountable.
Sadly, we have allowed leaders on both sides of the political spectrum to use repetitive symbols of hate and prejudice to win elections. The byproduct of this rhetoric is that we are losing trust and love amongst ourselves and have little tolerance for religious and cultural differences. The politician attending a synagogue breakfast donning a yarmulke, the gatherings at a mosques, and singing “we shall overcome,” at MLK interfaith prayer services are performative – and ultimately meaningless if those same individuals, on the left and the right, undermine these gestures with derisive and dirty campaign tactics.
People are more divided than ever before, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to carry on civil conversation about important issues in our community, like fair housing, inclusive zoning, and funding levels for public schools.
When our politicians use hateful rhetoric, it gives permission to the rest of us to do the same. We start to see it in our communities, in our workplaces, and even in our schools. We see it in the way we treat each other, and in what we say about each other, both online and in-person.
Sadly, our children are not immune to the incessant lava flow of invective; on the contrary, they are even more receptive to it than the adults that transmit it to them. Our children are hearing hateful rhetoric at home, in school, and on the news. They’re seeing people treated differently because of their race, religion, sexual orientation. And they’re starting to believe hate and prejudice are okay.
This is not the Rockland County we want to live in.
We need to stand up to this hate and prejudice, and we need to start at the top. We need to demand our politicians stop using hate and prejudice to win elections. We need to ask them, as Joseph Welch did in response to one of the most notorious fearmongers this country has ever known (Sen. Joseph McCarthy), “Have you no sense of decency?”
We need to make it clear we will not tolerate hate and prejudice in our political system. We need to demand our politicians lead by example, and that they promote civility and respect for all people. When they behave hypocritically, call them out!
We can do this by voting for politicians who have a history of civility and respect. We can do this by speaking out against hate and prejudice whenever we see it. And we can do this by teaching our children about the importance of tolerance and understanding.
It’s time to take back our country from the politicians who are trying to divide us. It’s time to reject political speech that is drenched with hate and prejudice. And it is time to remember there is so much that unites us: a dream of a better, safer, and more love-filled tomorrow in Rockland County.
Paul Adler is Chief Strategy Officer of Rand Commercial. firstname.lastname@example.org