The Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate, a new group on Hilton Head Island, believes hate speech has no place on our island.
Made up of more than thirty-five representatives from various organizations, the group met recently to discuss how a diverse group of community leaders might set an example that such speech would not be accepted in our public discourse.
The group includes leaders from the both political parties and community organizations from both the liberal and conservative sectors. These sectors, who sometimes oppose one another, have transcended their differences.
Thee group formed after a mayoral candidate who questions whether the Holocaust happened announced his candidacy. A second candidate for mayor later spoke of her admiration of Adolph Hitler, complimenting his so-called skills of uniting his people.
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The coalition wants to help Hilton Head voters understand how important it is to counter hate with truth and knowledge of the facts of history, especially about the Holocaust.
It also hopes to rally the community rather than destroying or demonizing individual people.
Our objective is to teach old and young alike that communities thrive not only on their economic resources but on their moral foundation.
It is does not matter whether these two candidates have no real chance to win the election.
What really matters is our integrity as a community.
The coalition wants to send a message to our youth that the adult world that makes the rules abides by the principle that America rejects hate and respects the history of all the peoples who live here. It does not seek to endorse any candidate but wants all prospective leaders to support the principles that hate speech is wrong and that efforts to lie about the Holocaust are wrong.
Only one candidate has issued a statement to this effect.
Will other community leaders and organizations remain silent?
Is silence in the face of hate speech the message our young deserve from elected officials?
I have faced this issue directly with teens in the congregation. For the last two years we have sent two delegations of juniors and seniors on a special mission called the March of the Living.
For ten days, the teens travel first to Poland. They learn about the Holocaust, meet teens from Poland and participate in a march through the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
They then travel to Israel where they learn about the miracle of that country and how it was founded.
I could not look them in the eye and say that it was OK for them to go far away to Auschwitz but find hate tolerated in our community.
What example is that for them to follow?
This coalition is also concerned about leadership recognizing that any elected official is a symbolic of community values.
If community leaders — no matter how remote their chances of election may be — still believe the Holocaust is fake history then who in God’s name will be the next target of the next crusade for fake truths?
The group wants to remind our community that when we sing “America the Beautiful” the words “God shed his grace on thee” have a special meaning. Because, without God’s watchful eye and divine presence, what kind of nation would we become?
“Not in our town” is a rallying cry for those for whom Hilton Head is much more than a world class resort community.
Coalition members are determined that when the past calls out to the future, we will say, as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed:“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go or us? Then said I , Here am I; send me.”