Diversity is America’s heartbeat and essential to reawakening the nation. It expresses a true appreciation of the inestimable value of each human being and a respect for their beliefs. Tragically, a recent incident expressed a violation of diversity.
On Sunday, April 13, the eve of Passover for the Jewish faith and Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for Christians, a 73-year-old Ku Klux Klan member reminded the world of the destructive history of hate. This extremist, who possessed a long history of involvement with white supremacists as well as a propensity for violence, released his rage.
The madman, accused of killing three people including a 14-year-old Eagle Scout and his 69-year-old grandfather at two Jewish Centers in Kansas, had a history replete with organizing armed militias, plotting to kill, and stockpiling military grade weapons.
As he was taken into custody by law enforcement, for what will be prosecuted as hate crimes, he reportedly yelled a phrase associated with the evil of the Nazi regime, words not worthy of being repeated in this column.
A Celebration of Diversity
As a counterpoint to the evil that took place in Kansas, I am reminded of an event I took part in on March 28, 2007. The Anti-Defamation League celebrated a Solidarity Seder with law enforcement, government, community, faith-based, corporate, and citizen guests in Trenton, N.J. It was fittingly held at the Trenton War Memorial—a national historic site—built as “a great community center” dedicated to the memory of American soldiers and sailors who died fighting World War I.
Prior to the Seder, a representative of the Anti-Defamation League explained the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Contradicting their hatred, he shared these treasured words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door
Testimonials were then shared, including one from a young man who spoke about the heartbreak of seeing his mother arrested as they attempted to enter America from Mexico. This young man went on to proudly become an American citizen and applied to become a member of the United States Army. Another young man stated there are no complaints about immigration as American’s enjoy the fruits and vegetables harvested through the labor and sweat of immigrants working on farms.
The most moving testimonial was by Holocaust survivor Shelly Zeiger who spoke passionately about “the town’s fool.” This man, lovingly referred to as Anton by Zeiger, was ridiculed as a misfit by his townspeople in western Ukraine and considered a fool because of his obsessive respect for all life. Although a Catholic, Anton risked his own life to hide Jewish neighbors in his home. He hid Shelly, his father and mother, and two girls from the Nazis in the Zbrow ghetto for 27 months beginning in 1942. Shelly said, “Anton was truly a hero who teaches us to respect each human being, for courage can be found in the most unlikely of persons.”
After the war, Shelly and his family came to America. Years later, he mustered enough courage to go back to his hometown in the Ukraine to find Anton. He found him and brought him to live with him and his family in America, a country whose appreciation for diversity is the heartbeat of the nation and the world.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com