Hate is not welcome in Lancaster County

May 20, 2017
In The News

It would be very easy to dismiss the modern-day KKK as a bunch of sheet-wearing miscreants who pump up their self-esteem by calling themselves “knights” and pretending they belong to something called the “True Invisible Empire.”

Such flowery terms. Such delusions of grandeur. Such ingrained foolishness.

It also would be easy to make fun of their silly, pointed hats and the costumes that are meant to make them intimidating but only serve to mark them as cowards, unwilling to show their faces.

It certainly was easy to poke fun at the white nationalists who marched recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest plans to remove a Confederate statue in that city. As The Washington Post reported, those marchers were brandishing bamboo tiki torches.

Tiki torches. As if they were heading next to a luau.

But there’s really nothing funny about groups of people so dedicated to spreading hate that they’re willing to make themselves look ridiculous in pursuit of their aim.

What makes someone so eager to inherit the mantle of the terrorists who tortured, maimed and killed African-Americans in the South? Is their fear of Jews, immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBT community — among their new targets — so overwhelming?

Whatever drives them, they should know that they are not welcome in Lancaster County.

Not among the Republicans here, as Congressman Lloyd Smucker made clear Wednesday in a statement strongly condemning the KKK. Not among the Democrats here, as Sen. Bob Casey made clear in a tweet that acknowledged the right of the KKK to assemble, but also noted the right of others to “call out their twisted ideology.” Not among people of no political party affiliation.

We are heartened by the response of the Lancaster branch of the NAACP and others, such as Amanda Kemp and Nick Miron, who decided to spurn the KKK event and instead emphasize this community’s true values of unity and acceptance.

We urge people to attend the NAACP’s Day of Unity event in Lancaster city today.

The event — “Rise!: Embrace, Envision, Empower” — will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on the steps of the old courthouse at East King and South Duke streets.

As LNP reported Friday, Blanding Watson, president of the local NAACP branch, said in a statement that while his organization “remains prayerfully concerned with the state of racial disunity in our community and across the country,” it is “bolstered by the words, presence, and actions of the many leaders of all races who work to heal that divide.”

One of those leaders is Rabbi Jack Paskoff of Congregation Shaarai Shomayim, who is a contributor to LNP’s Matters of Faith column.

In an urgent message he sent to his congregation that was later circulated on the Facebook pages of other county residents, Paskoff urged attendance at the NAACP event.

Though today is Shabbat — the Jewish Sabbath — Paskoff asked his congregants to make it “a Shabbat of peace and blessing ... a Shabbat of activism and solidarity, a Shabbat to raise our voices and to stand together, as we defy racism and hatred,” and gather “with people of good will, of all faiths, races, and beliefs” at the NAACP Day of Unity.

He noted that the KKK is “clearly feeling emboldened with the climate of the country as it is today. Our voices must be included in a resounding statement that there is no place for hatred here — in our county, in our country, or in the world.”

They were faced with a “moral imperative, a commandment from the Torah, to stand with sisters and brothers, to oppose violence and hate, to raise our voices.”

Jewish or not, we’re all faced with that moral imperative. Let’s prove today that we stand together against hate — that in Lancaster County, we choose unity and love instead.