September 16, 2009
Honest Analysis of a Troubling Subject
I have an op ed in today’s Los Angeles Times on the subject of hyperbole in the civil rights arena. It focuses on the “sky is falling” rhetoric that accompanied the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington last June. It is a subject that I am all too familiar with, having worked in civil rights for over three decades.
I have long believed that honesty and accuracy in representing the dynamics of inter-group relations is the best policy. Exaggerating the threats that exist ultimately does no one any good and, in fact, is dangerously counter-productive.
Over a decade ago, in August, 1999, when Buford Furrow invaded the North Valley Jewish Community Center and many were sure that militias and other extremists were on the rise, I wrote in the Times that:
As today’s op/ed makes clear, my views have only been reinforced by developments and trends over the past 10 years,
……. the sociopathy of a relative few is no measure of where we are as a society in terms of inter-group relations; it is an unfortunate reality with which we must deal.
The danger of the knee-jerk, “sky is falling” reactions of Wiesenthal and ADL is that they undeservedly alarm an awful lot of folks, who are then afraid of the world around them. And when groups make such specious assertions, they undermine the very credibility they need to be effective. If there were ever to be a new wave of hatred, real “cancers” and “waves” of bigotry, they would be less likely to be believed.