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Self-Righteous Intolerance

August 28, 1994

If you were to think that our area is free of anti-Semitism and homophobia, I'm sorry to say you would be wrong. As my sister sat down to lunch with her children at a popular Westlake eatery recently, she heard a man speaking loudly. He had a Bible in front of him and several admiring listeners at his table. As he finished a reading from the Bible, he said in a pedantic voice, "And that is why to this day the Jews cheat us and steal from us." He continued to berate Jews and then homosexuals.

The manager of the restaurant remained silent as this went on. So did the other customers. Unable to eat her lunch, my sister approached the man and told him that she is Jewish, that her children are Jewish, and that she found his comments offensive and dangerous. He responded in a hostile manner, while his listeners characteristically claimed, "We love the Jews--they are the chosen people." My sister left the establishment, unwilling to engage in a futile theological debate with these people.

What would you have done in this situation? What should have been done? What did the average German or Polish citizen do during the 1940s? Let's not forget that another famous homophobic anti-Semite began with relatively few followers; we know the result. And let's not forget that the neo-Nazi movement is on the rise worldwide.

If we permit ignorance and hatred to flourish in our communities, it will. If we permit people to misrepresent the Bible for their own purposes, they will. One incident in one restaurant in one city may not be much, but citizens of Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, be aware. There may be an insidious disease lurking in your fair cities; it's called self-righteous intolerance.

Tracy Harvey

Moorpark

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