View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers
Every year around the middle of August, the Canarsie community joins with the rest of the nation in what is called a "Night Out Against Crime." The event is usually well-attended. Not so much as it was when the annual event started about 20 years ago, but enough to show criminals and naysayers that we, as citizens, support the police and other law enforcement agencies in their fight against crime.
The "National Night Out" was, and is, quite effective; not that it hinders crime so much but that it tells would-be criminals that we're on the alert, and they'd better watch out if they want to come into our territory and rock our boat.
As a public relations gimmick, the event works, as it brings residents and communities together with a single enemy. In the 69th Precinct area, police Community Relations Unit personnel pull out all stops to show attendees what they are doing - and what we can do - to fight crime.
There is even a small parade around our blocks to show neighborhood solidarity.
Essentially, the "Night Out" works.
The end of this month - scheduled for November 29 - city clerics, politicians and community leaders are sponsoring a similar event, very appropriate at this time because of the spate of bias crimes we've been experiencing in the city: a "Day Against Hate." Although there isn't a heck of a lot of time for planning, there are supposed to be a few special events held in every borough, including interfaith religious services.
I guess they didn't hear about Canarsie's interdenominational Brotherhood Night that we hold every year around Thanksgiving (This one will be on November 19 at Temple Emanu-El of Canarsie). We've been doing this for more than 20 years too.
The November 29 event is sparked by the rash of bias and hate crimes we've seen in the past few months, probably starting with the Jena, La. incident where nooses were hung on trees, fights were started and arrests were made. From that, there were incidents of a noose hanging on the door of a black professor at Columbia University and then, less than a week later, a swastika was graffitied on the door of a Jewish professor at the same "institute of higher education."
Some said the swastika could have been done by another teacher there, but that was hearsay and completely unsubstantiated. After all, one finds it rather unbelievable that anyone with any intelligence at all would commit such a crime.
These symbols of hate - the noose and the swastika - are quite often the work of youths. We can start off by signifying they are the work of the ignorant - young or old - who think they are being politically "shocking," but actually showing their stupidity. The swastika, for one thing, in at least half the cases, is backwards, and is derivative of the insignia of a holy state in India. Most times, it's scribbled askance, obviously not as straight as any Nazi or Nazi lover would want it. The noose, according to police sources, does not have the proper knot in many of the incidents, once again an example of the ignorance and stupidity of the person or persons committing the act.
The aforementioned youths, of course, just emulate the stupid adults who are purveyors of this hatred, thus "learning" how to hate, even though it says in the Bible that whoever causes them to stumble, "it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck, and be drowned in the depths of the sea."
My dear late mother always told me never to "hate" someone. I could dislike a person and then not associate with him, but it was unforgivable to actually hate him ("Even at that, you should pray for him, dear," she would say).
Police say there has been a 20 percent rise in hatecrimes in the city this year over last. That's a lot.
Here in Canarsie, we are much more fortunate and the statistics are not nearly that high. Our togetherness, generally, is fairly exemplary, but remember, we've been holding this interfaith Brotherhood Night for two decades - long before the city's elected officials decided to make their Day Against Hate. We should attend both, of course, if for no other reason than to give us a few hours to ponder and reflect and pray. It helps.