Our Views: We all must guard against hateful speech

April 18, 2014 

Oakdale resident Cheryl Wolford and a number of her neighbors found Easter eggs filled with white supremacist propaganda on their front porches Friday morning.

ERIN TRACY — etracy@modbee.com

What kind of scared and hateful person would put poison in an Easter egg?

Hate speech is poison, just as corrosive as any chemical. So it was sad that someone would attempt to mar Easter weekend by leaving plastic Easter eggs containing slips of paper promoting white supremacy on front porches in Oakdale. Children are conditioned to expect candy in those little eggs, so filling them with hate and leaving them by front doors is heinous.

The idea wasn’t homegrown. The scraps referenced a website that suggested the tactic, taking care to say “we are not targeting children.” Right, just people with small minds.

It’s hard to fathom why people do such things. Hate is often born of fear, and psychologists tell us that people who hate often are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and rather than face them blame them on others. Most often, we simply pity such people. But using Easter eggs to spread their poison is outrageous.

We should not pretend that the people behind these efforts aren’t dangerous. The man responsible for killing three in Overland Park, Kan. (a town not much smaller than Modesto), last week spent hours on Internet sites like those referenced in the Easter eggs. The man who killed six at a Sikh temple in 2012 and the man who gunned down 77 in Norway in 2011 also frequented these sites.

How do we guard against this evil?

First, when they come out of the shadows, confront them. What they say and do is unacceptable; let them know.

Second, recognize that their words are poison and teach our kids that this poison is just as harmful as any other they’re likely to encounter.

Third, as Easter approaches, realize that it was hatred and fear that 2,000 years ago put a man on a cross. As we confront those who hate, try not to hate back.

Making very good connections

The Stanislaus Community Foundation drew a full house for its Connecting For Good community forum Thursday at the Martin Petersen Center to hear Doug Noll and Sam Kaner explain how a similar effort in Fresno is beginning to make a difference. Make no mistake, a difference needs to be made in Stanislaus County.

Noll concentrated on stewardship and leadership as necessary components of any strategy. Equally important, he said, is building trust among those who have a stake in the problems and status quo. We took three important points from his talk:

First, “everything is an experiment.” If something isn’t working, try something else. Quickly.

Second, “frame the problem.” Helping people see the issues, and their roles in fixing them, is the most important step to solving them.

Third, we need a “BHAG” – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Once you have that, frame the problem and start experimenting.

We part company with Noll in one area. He criticized the Brown Act for “limiting collaboration.” Not sure if he realized that Modesto is Ralph Brown’s hometown and that the Brown Act has done more good in uncovering corruption than any other law on California’s books. Sometimes people collaborate in the dark to do bad things. Criticizing the Brown Act, we trust, is just one of those experiments he will soon toss out.

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