Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.
- George Washington Carver
The needed leadership response the country needed this week was quite simple.
There are no good neo-Nazis. There are no good white supremacists. There are no good white nationalists. There are no good Ku Klux Klan members. There are no good religious bigots.
They all share these premises - hate, fear, bigotry and violence. In essence, they are simply just un-American.
Such hate groups have been a sad part of American history since the founding of our country.
The bigotry, fear, hatred and intolerance of others who are different from one’s self is too common a phenomenon in our country today. It has become more common in recent months and weeks.
Just one week ago during a rally of white supremacists and the corresponding counter protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, a young white nationalist drove a car rapidly into a group of counter protesters on a street in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Such hatred is not restricted in the 21st century to states of the old Confederacy States of America.
On the same day as the Charlottesville domestic terror attack that killed a young white woman and injured about 19 others, an act of religious hatred was perpetrated right here in Willmar.
A 61-year-old Willmar man, Joseph Fernkes, at the Farmers Market on Lakeland Drive, began shouting and cursing at a young adult male Somali-American selling vegetables.
According to law enforcement reports, Fernkes then threw a pig’s foot at the Somali man.
Some in Willmar have dismissed this as just an incident of disagreement. Others may have dismissed it as just the act of angry old man. Others have even agreed with the man’s actions believing Muslims do not belong here in our city.
The reality is this simple act of religious bigotry and hatred may embolden others to partake in similar or even worse acts.
Is this recent Willmar incident of religious bigotry just the beginning?
Will the next incident be a bombing of a mosque or a church, like the Aug. 5 mosque bombing in Bloomington?
Or will it be a murderous shooting in a church or mosque, such as the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015, in downtown Charleston, South Carolina?
Or will it be a vehicle terror attack striking a public crowd, like the one last weekend in Charlottesville or the similar attack Thursday in Spain?
Religious bigotry is often the most common form of bigotry during the history of the civilized world. Christians were persecuted in ancient Rome and are still persecuted in some areas now in the 21st century. Jews were persecuted in Europe during the Middle Ages and, of course, during the Nazi regime during the 20th century. Muslims were persecuted at various times through history, most recently in the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Followers of Hindu, Buddhism and Sikhism have historically and in recent times faced religious persecution as well.
Racial bigotry follows closely on the hatred scale.
Former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush said it best this week in a joint statement. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all its forms,” read their statement.
Hatred speaks loudest when it is ignored by our leaders or individuals such as ourselves.
Let us be clear: It was hatred, bigotry and racism that originated the recent deaths in the Charlottesville incident.
Willmar and our nation must stand with strength and resolve against the latest re-emergence of hatred, bigotry and racism. We must confront the hatred, bigotry and racism that exists in our town, our region, our state and our country.
If we do not, who will?
This editorial is the opinion of West Central Tribune’s Editorial Board of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.