The outpouring of generosity in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredible. I continue to learn of people who have responded in remarkable ways to the needs that have been brought on by the quarantine or that have been recognized as a result of our having to stay home. The lack of face masks resulted in dozens of persons working alone or as part of groups to sew face masks and make them available to first responders, medical staff and others. Access to food has been a major concern, and numerous food pantries and distribution centers have been expanded or established to make food available to those in need. Food donations have come pouring in. For a list of places where you can respond to the food crisis, my website, kenplum.com, includes a Food Resources Directory. I am so pleased and honored to live in such a caring community.
Just as I am celebrating the goodness of our community, some misguided individual or individuals show up and for whatever their motivation decide to spray paint hate symbols on the sidewalks and buildings in one of our shopping centers. For whatever has happened in their lives to fill them with the hate they express, they are unable to exist in an open society that so many worked hard to establish. Graffiti with the worst of the hate words and symbols is bad enough, but in our state and throughout the country there are too many acts of bullying and violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks more than a thousand hate groups with 36 of them located in Virginia. That is why in the last session of the legislature I introduced a bill that the Governor has signed into law to strengthen our hate crime penalties.
I thank Rabbi Michael G. Holzman of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation for his “Call for Courage” after the recent hate event in Reston for providing me a meaningful perspective: “The solution is to call these symbols what they are, marks of cowardice. While they claim to communicate hate and fear, they really belie the underlying weakness and loneliness of the perpetrator. We are all afraid, and courage is the ability to face a fear and carry on despite it. Cowards allow fear to drive their decisions and actions, undermining one’s duties and purpose.” (Full statement is at www.nvhcreston.org.)
I concur with Rabbi Holzman’s recommendation as to what we should do: “The moment calls for courage. We invite everyone to drown these cowardly messages with the message “Hate has No Home Here.” Write this on sidewalks, take photos, use the hashtag, and post it online. Let us show Reston, Herndon, Vienna, Northern Virginia, the Commonwealth and the Country that we go forward together.” And I would add, let us continue to show through our acts of generosity and support for our neighbors and those in need in this time of a pandemic that we are a caring and compassionate community. Hate has no place here! (Hate Has No Home Here yard signs available for purchase at hatehasnohome.org)