EDITORIAL: Stand up against evil and stand with your neighbors

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It is deeply troubling that our community — one of the most blessedly serene and inviting places in the world — has been targeted by outsiders with an agenda of intolerance and hatred.

Yet it must be acknowledged forthrightly that just such a thing has happened, and that as a community, the Flathead Valley — and, more particularly, Whitefish — must respond with firmness to reject the odious stench of antisemitism and race hatred.

This is not about choosing sides — unless the sides are right and wrong. It is about choosing decency. It is about declaring our common humanity, and recognizing that a good neighbor must come to the defense of everyone in the neighborhood who is bullied, belittled or attacked without cause.

We do not hate Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who is at the center of the firestorm in Whitefish. His ideas are foreign to us, but he has chosen to make his home in Whitefish part of the time. So be it. We do not think he can infect Whitefish with his views, and as long as he remains civil and respectful, he should be able to hold whatever views he wants.

But he also must recognize that his ideas will never take root here, and that they will indeed meet vociferous opposition not just through the mechanism of a human-rights organization such as Love Lives Here, but through the kindness and decency of the multitudes who are lucky enough to live here.

Moreover, when he encourages his followers who include neo-Nazis and white supremacists to oppose the good people of Whitefish and to target local residents because of their Jewish heritage, he cannot go unanswered.

In another Montana city more than 20 years ago, a similar virulent hatred surfaced unexpectedly, and led the city of Billings to unite and to say “Not In Our Town” to antisemitism, racism, hatred and violence. The citizens then were encouraged to post a paper menorah in their windows to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people who were being harassed.

We invite all residents of Whitefish and the Flathead Valley who value diversity, freedom and tolerance to do the same thing. Go to www.dailyinterlake.com/opinion/ and download the menorah artwork (right-click on the image) in order to print a poster that can go in your own window or that of your business. The menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, is associated with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, and its symbol of bringing light out of darkness gives it a universal appeal.

The Hanukkah celebration starts on Dec. 24 this year, at the same time Christians begin to celebrate the birth of a Jewish baby more than 2,000 years ago. Just as Jesus found common cause with the Samaritan woman at the well and the Roman centurion whose daughter was deathly ill, so too must all Christians today keep the faith with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Thus we can provide a living example of love that will inspire not just Christians or Jews, but members of other religions, atheists, skeptics and hopefully even the bent souls who take pleasure in tormenting those with whom they disagree.

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