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Human Rights Panel

February 03, 1985

The need for a commission to investigate racial, ethnic and cultural conflict has been demonstrated. It is a justified need. Attacks on human rights have occurred in San Diego County indicating that there are faltering relationships: gang warfare, cross burnings, advocacy of white supremacy, bombings, shootings have all taken place.

There is indeed, "a whole list of problems in the community," and Supervisor Leon Williams is correct that "there needs to be some official effort on the part of the government to create an atmosphere where there is less tension between groups." (The Times, Jan. 27). Only an organized effort on the part of the government will be effective in halting the growing number of assaults on our freedom as citizens.

We all deserve to live in such an atmosphere and with an understanding that differences do not threaten security; intolerance does. The list of abuses born of intolerance is as long as the list of American tastes, beliefs, cultures and life styles. Our schooling and our parents taught that the tapestry of this country is glorious because of the variety of the threads that bind us.

Unfortunately, there have always been individuals among us who are threatened by and uncomfortable with variety, nonconformity and differences. Blaming others for their discomfort, lack of success and instability, they resort to violent expressions of their bigotry in an attempt to homogenize the world.

They cannot be allowed to succeed. The foundation stones of this country--respect, understanding, cooperation, acceptance--must not be overthrown by those who insist that they possess the only truth. They are attacking democracy.

There can be no such thing as a limited focus on human rights for those who are concerned about human relations. To limit our concern is to deny its purpose. Those from whom we would withhold our concern need it most.

If a human relations commission became an advocate for homosexuality, it would be denying its purpose. But if it eliminates concern for the human rights of members of the gay community, then its agenda will deny its purpose.

We have no right to discriminate against, disenfranchise or damage any citizen who has not infringed upon another's freedom. Either we believe in the equal rights of all of us or we reject our belief in American democracy.

In a totalitarian society, relations and rights are proscribed, not protected! That is certainly not our way.

Let the Human Rights Commission be founded on American principles, unhampered by limitations, unfettered by personal preference, free to protect all of us --all of us --without exception.

AGNES G. HERMAN

RABBI ERWIN L. HERMAN

Lake San Marcos

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