The following are prepared remarks by Sen. Steve Glazer at a Standing Together Interfaith service at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, CA on August 29, 2017.
Thank you to the Interfaith Community for bringing us together tonight. Thank you to Rabbi Shanks for inviting me to share my thoughts, which I composed this morning at the dining room table.
As a child, when I listened to or read about current events and history, I would often absorb the stories during the day and dream about them at night.
There was a lot to take in during the 1960s: The war in Viet Nam, the struggles – sometimes violent – for civil rights; the threat of nuclear proliferation; environmental awareness.
And the reflections and actions of a young child mirrored that trauma. I wrote poetry about war and sang songs about unity and peace (Come on people now, Smile on your brother, Everybody get together, Try to love one another, Right now).
And if modern events were not always bright and cheery, historical events taught at school were even less so.
We may have learned about how polio could be prevented with modern medicine but there was so much more that stuck in this child’s brain: destructions of civilizations; massacres of people based on ethnicity and religious beliefs like the Holocaust; the killing of native Americans; slave ships sailing from Africa; the freezing winter at Valley Forge where our American revolution teetered on the brink of failure.
The events, current and historical, made a big impact. And so these stories during the day would become unexpected companions alongside my pillow at night.
Dreams became dark and worrisome but it was often a place for the subconscious brain to work through these situations in a constructive way.
As a child, I wrestled with questions such as: If I had lived through the Krystallnacht, would I have stayed or fled? If I was hiding with Anne Frank’s family could I have been quiet and helpful? If I was in the Warsaw Ghetto, could I have stayed strong and defiant and figured out an escape?
And even more poignant in my thoughts today, had I not been a target would I have been able to see the signals of unrest and tyranny before they happened?
In these past times would it had just been a man yelling hate from a street corner?
Would it be hurtful graffiti on a fence, a lawn, a church or synagogue that would have sounded the alarm?
Would it be violence against my neighbors or my family?
Would it be hate speech from a leader of my country?
What would be the signals that the life and liberty of others were in danger and what would I do about it?
In the public policy arena, where I now find myself, the course of action in helping people is pretty clear if not always advanced in a straight line: pursue justice and equality for all; embrace diversity as a strength; protect minority rights as if it was your own; support education as it lifts everyone up; focus on things that provide economic security as a weakness there provides a harbor for insecurity and scapegoating; promote peace and understanding.
Our democratic principles and constitutional rights, together with a free press and independent judiciary, provide a layer of protection.
But if there is one clear truth from history, it is that nothing is ever stagnant. Waves of change have washed over the earth – from peace to war – and repeat again.
It is because we fear the peeling back of these layers of protection that we assemble here today.
Does the visible presence of neo-Nazis, unhooded Klansmen, white supremacists and others who preach hate and intolerance signal a new level of alert?
My radar, hard wired into me after a childhood of social turmoil and a schooling about the worst of human excess, is certainly on very high alert.
There are three trends occurring in different parts of the world that are deeply troublesome. Two have been obvious for a long time. One may be unique to America. And the question is whether America has become infected with all three. They are:
1. Righteousness: a belief that there is only one truth and if others don’t adhere to it, they are the enemy.
2. Intolerance: not accepting of people that don’t match me.
3. Apathy: I have other priorities and my voice doesn’t matter.
They are the new horsemen roaming our planet today. And be assured that these horsemen of righteousness, intolerance and apathy are a harbinger of death and destruction where ever they linger.
And so I harken back to my childhood lessons and dreams when I see these unmistakable signs of hate and oppression. I step into the shoes of these oppressed. And so should you.
I AM a refugee family on the border. Who will let me in?
I AM a Muslim and my religious beliefs have falsely marked me as a terrorist. Who will stand up for me?
I AM a Jew, facing extremist who only want me dead. Who will protect me?
I AM LGBTQ. Who will see what is in my human heart and support me?
I AM a captive of human traffickers. Who can help free me?
I AM an immigrant who only wants food and shelter for my family and I will work hard day and night to prove it. Who cares about me?
We are one people, one humanity, one world and there are no border walls that stop discrimination.
The hate that created the slave ship, the concentration camp, the Armenian massacres, is the same hate that exists today.
I thank you for being here and standing when others don't hear these voices of hate.
I thank you for standing for the persecuted, the immigrant, the minority, the powerless.
Together, we will stand where ever, when ever hate raises its voice, whether it be in a whisper from a bigot, or the ignorant declaration of a national leader.
Yes, we are children schooled in history but when we lay our heads on that pillow tonight, our thoughts will be about the future not the past. It will be reflections about love and tolerance for each other but it should also be about dreams of action. Actions to protect the liberties and rights for all of us.
I look forward to seeing you in the morning. We have much to do.