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Save statue, fight hate
I am writing you today in this open letter to communicate to individuals and our shared community at large about an issue which has become more than just a nuisance but rather has now grown to a great concern for the source(s) of such.
During this last year, the cement statue representing the person of the mother of Jesus, a symbol of the faith of both myself and my neighbors, Ana and Joaquin Laguana, has been removed from our shared property. This has now occurred four times the most recent which damaged the very heavy icon. Another statuary has been removed representing angels and other measurable damage incurred as a result of the trespass of unwelcomed others.
I believe that at this point forgiveness has already occurred three times and this, the fourth time, I must speak out to both inform the perpetrators that in fact, despite the inability of the local police department to tie up resources, someone needs to inform that this has now truly become a hate crime. I do not use that term lightly and, having myself been involved in prison ministries at Folsom State Prison some time back, have seen petty theft, just one addictive consumption or just one seemingly impulsive act that has lead to greater and greater shared long term negative consequences. Because this trespass and damage is toward a symbol of my personal religious belief and therefore specific to the issue(s), whoever is practicing this kind of careless, cavalier behavior is guilty of what is today, and rightfully so, termed a hate crime.
We must all pull together in this community and begin to speak to our young, our neighbors and too often absent parents about this kind of behavior. Is this any different than burning a cross on someone’s lawn? I think not. I, like many in this area, have lived long enough to see uncommon foolishness turn into worst case scenarios because of ignorance, apathy and misguided intent. Let us open a dialogue with one another, most particularly with our youth, many of whom, having grown up in this still small rural community, are perhaps less aware of the consequences of such actions. I myself am going to start calling on my neighbors and better lighting in the front yard to discourage trespass.
When my son was in his first year at OHHS, I became aware that many of his chums kept referring to him as “A.J.” I thought at first that it was an innocent nickname and at last recognized that his nickname stood for “Arab Jew.” Of course, my freshman son tried to dismiss this as a normal sort of teenage experience. I, being of a middle eastern and western European background was stunned as this moniker was always in context of insulting ethnic comments and slurs. Suddenly, the blessing of living in our diverse community withered before my eyes as I realized that many of the kids online were otherwise “nice.” I decided to then take this issue into my own hands immediately and wrote a long letter which I broadcast to all my son’s email friends, educating them about who the Arabs and the Jews are. My son was immediately mortified though at the end of that day admitted that this bullying had been going on for almost two years and was glad that it would hopefully stop.
We adults need to take the bulls in our lives by the horn and re-direct the pathways of our young. We can still re-claim the respect for our wisdom of age. It is not too late. It is never too late. We can only claim too little too late only at Heaven’s gate. Be not shy to speak the truth into the lives of those around you. We can still be the village elders if we do not shy away from our mature obligations as members of a civil society. I have always informed the young around me that good manners were even more important than formal education or money. I challenge my valued shared community members to speak into the lives on just one younger person today. We can only expect as much respect from others as we allow ourselves to exercise.
Linda Reggie Dowling