Burn the Jew.
They are not words we expect to find scrawled anywhere in our town, where catchphrases like “We Choose Love,” “Love Wins,” and “Newtown Strong” reflect our belief in each other and the world.
This past weekend, the Rooster Wine and Spirits liquor store on South Main Street was the victim not only of suspected arson and a robbery, but of hate, as well. Police responding to the call on Saturday night discovered the slur inscribed on the back door of the business.
How does one respond to such a disheartening event? Whether the graffiti was coincidentally marked on the door that evening or a vile parting remark from the thieves; whether done by a local person or not; whether a personal directive to the owner or not, it is a matter of grave concern.
Newtown is known for its ability to reach out to and respect the beliefs of all, to care about the many who are the threads in the cloth of our town. The initial response on social media to this news has rightly been one of horror and disgust. Hate will not be tolerated in even the smallest dose.
The recent pondering by town boards as to the value of asking our new President of the United States, via a letter, to denounce an individual who promotes an agenda that 12/14 never happened is even more important in light of the Saturday night incident. It is another form of hate, as vile as any scribbled on a wall. For the nation’s leader to not clarify that untruths, or vitriol of any kind, are not acceptable or in keeping with the character of our country will only embolden those who would dilute the good of the many with hate. The letter may bring a barrage of unwelcome notoriety once again to our town, but we are Newtown Strong. It sends a message that we count on the officials of our land to make known that the spreading of loathsome lies, racism, prejudice, anti-Semitism, and/or intolerance of diverse populations is not what makes our nation powerful. Ensuring that the letter will not be lost in the avalanche of letters to the White House is the challenge, hoping that the President might lay eyes on it. If the town boards can find a capable messenger, it will be worth the risk of negative reaction.
Awareness around the issue of gun violence was violently brought home to our town four years ago. Awareness surrounding hate crimes may be the next enlightenment for Newtown.
It is up to each Newtown resident to be vigilant of attitudes that spread a message of hate, or of actions that are contrary to the programs of kindness that have made our town resilient in the face of adversity.
The path between an isolated instance and the spread of dangerous attitudes is not far. One incident is enough to put friends and neighbors on guard. One incident could escalate if a clear message is not sent: Not in our town, not in our nation.