Oh, not the kind of hate that makes your stomach lurch when you look at a plate of lima beans and you hate your mother for making you eat them (With apologies for those of you who actually like lima beans. Please don't hate me.).
Or, the kind of hate you feel in your heart when you really, really need some sleep and your neighbors are having a party in their back yard and it's 2 AM and you actually contemplate committing an act of violence.
I'm talking about the kind of hate that makes people hate other people so much that they want to kill them. Or worse, eliminate a whole class or group of people from the face of the earth.
I have read and studied the psychology of hate and I "know" that a piece of it can come from a primal fear - a Xenophobia - of others who are "different" and therefore perceived as a threat.
Indeed, I've been the object of such hate myself.
I still don't understand it.
So, yesterday, this article appeared in the local newspaper.
CHATHAM - Police are looking for the people responsible for scattering pieces of paper with the words "kill Jews'' scrawled on them in the area of Main Street and Tallmadge Avenue last Wednesday, police said.This is Chatham, NJ. Affluent, suburban Chatham. A community of about 8,500 people, 96.7% of whom are Caucasian. The average home costs around $600,000. More than half the town self-identifies as being Republican and "religious" with 38% claiming to be Roman Catholic, 8% Protestant and 7% Jewish.
At about 8:20 a.m., police walked the street from 1 Main St. to Passaic Avenue and collected a total of 35 pieces of paper with the same writing, scribbled in black marker.
Police were unable to locate any suspects and it is unknown how long the pieces of paper were on the sidewalk.
The following day, more pieces of paper were found on Fairmount Avenue with the same writing on them.
The Morris County Prosecutor's Office was notified and is assisting in this investigation.
Summit and Millburn police departments have reported similar incidents in the past.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Chatham Borough Police Department.
Summit and Millburn are nearby affluent suburban communities in the "serious suburbs" of Northern New Jersey.
These are, for the most part, sleepy little "bedroom communities" filled with highly educated people who insist on excellent education for their children. And, for the most part, they get it.
Summit and Millburn have way more diversity than does Chatham, but with the NFL Training Camp located in the next town, we are getting more and more people of color living in town - mostly because of the school system.
We're also seeing more women in full length dresses and head scarfs around town whose husbands work at the nearby Pharmaceutical Companies. We do have some apartment complexes that rent at standard market rate that are conveniently located near the train station. And then, there is the school system.
Who could have done this? Theories abound:
Restless adolescents at the end of the school year on a hot summer night (an easy place to start)?
"Visiting" Tea Baggers? (I have no doubt there are some "Tea Party" members in Republicanville but I would be shocked to find actual "Tea Baggers" living in our midst).
The recent Gaza Flotilla Crisis ?
The state of the economy, the rise of anxiety and the need to "shame and blame" someone?
I have a very clear memory from my childhood. It was a beautiful summer day and I was skipping rope on the sidewalk in front of our tenement house with some of my friends. A group of adolescent boys from another neighborhood came by and started taunting us for being "dirty Greenhorns".
The taunts soon escalated to the boys taking our jump rope. Just as my anxiety began to rise, my grandmother appeared from the front of the house. She had a garden hose in her hand and turned it on full blast, taking direct aim at the boys.
They whooped and hollered and yelled at her, "You crazy old woman!" But, they soon walked away - soaking wet.
My grandmother looked at us and said, "That's the way you handle mad dogs."
They don't make them like my grandmother anymore. Perhaps they should. Perhaps what we really need is someone like my beloved VaVoa to come and lower the temperature of hate with a cold splash of reality.
There is, of course, no excuse for the behavior of hate fueled by prejudice. No matter the age of the person or persons who littered the town with the hateful message to 'kill Jews', it's still stupid, adolescent behavior.
And, it's behavior that is filled with hate - and rage.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Prejudice kills brain cells.
Which is why the work of justice requires persistence and vigilance.
It's easy to 'tsk tsk' this away as an aberration. An unseemly and impolite public 'burp' in an upscale, polite town.
Parents have been trying to do that with the increase in teen drinking, drunk driving and under-age 'house parties' that have also been in the news. Thankfully, we have other parents in town who have been putting up signs all over their lawns that warn about the consequences for lack of parental supervision: "Under age drinking? Parents lose the most."
It's meant to be a sobering message. A cold slap of reality like my grandmother's water hose.
I think members of religious communities have a special responsibility to speak out against hate and the fear that fuels it.
Perhaps we need another "lawn sign" campaign to get out the message that "hate is not a family value". Not in this town. Not if you live here. Not if you are 'just visiting'. Not no-how. Not nowhere.
We've apparently got some work to do in Chatham this summer.
It's just a long shot, but I have a sense that you do, in your town, too.
What did you do on your 'summer vacation'?
I worked for zero-tolerance of hate!
Sounds like a great essay for the Fall.
Or, for that matter, any time. Any where.
But, especially right now. Right here.
Because, if it can happen in Chatham, it can happen anywhere.