SAN DIEGO — Many Americans have turned inward and stopped worrying about the heavy load carried by fellow citizens. Our national motto used to be: "E pluribus unum (out of many, one)." Now it has become: "It's not my problem."
But desperate times call for a collective response. We need to speak with one voice and say loud and clear: "Enough!"
This new year, Americans all need to join together and make the same resolution: We need to resolve to be more empathetic to those who are targeted, picked on or even killed not because of what they do, but simply because of who they are.
Think about that. We're taught by our parents — if we're lucky — that our decisions and actions have consequences. You want to avoid pain, loss and suffering, and have relatively smooth sailing through life? Make better choices, we're told. You'll be fine.
But what if you're not fine? What if you're singled out and preyed upon because of the color of your skin, who you love or how you worship?
Racism. Anti-Semitism. Islamophobia. Nativism. Homophobia. These cancers are all around us, afflicting one group after another.
And the worst part isn't the attack. It's the apathy. When many Americans hear about a hate crime, we look to see who was hurt and who is alleged to have done it. If neither of those have anything to do with us, or our community, we go on with our lives. We have to stop that. We have to understand that when someone is targeted because of who they are, it's an attack on all of us.
Recently, Jews have been targeted in New York City and surrounding areas in a rash of attacks. In one of the more horrific examples, five people were stabbed last month in the Jewish enclave of Monsey, New York, while attending a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home. The assailant allegedly entered the home, closed the door behind him, whipped out a machete and started slashing away. He fled after the assault but a suspect was later arrested in Harlem.
Of course, African Americans know all too well what it feels like to be targeted by hate. In a recent illustration of a shameful legacy of violence against that community that goes back centuries, nine African Americans were killed and three wounded in June 2015 when a white gunman entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study and started shooting.
A year later, it was the LGBTQ community that was targeted in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others were wounded inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, when a man went into the club with semiautomatic weaponry and opened fire.
When my gay brother heard the news, he was shaken to his core. Honestly, while I too was shocked by the shooting, it didn't affect me the same way. But, as a Mexican American, my time would come.
This past August, 22 people were killed and 24 others were injured — most of them Mexican or Mexican American — when a white gunman drove 10 hours to the U.S.-Mexico border and the heavily Latino city of El Paso, Texas, entered a Walmart and opened fire with the singular objective of killing, he reportedly told police, "as many Mexicans as possible."
What in the world is going on? We make a terrible mistake when, after one of these tragedies, we shift the conversation to gun control, or mental health, or video games. These horrible occurrences are all about the same thing, something we don't like to talk about: hate. We should call it by name. How else can we expect to fight it?
My Mexican-born wife has Jewish cousins through her mother's second marriage. So that means I have Jewish cousins. A few days after the attack at the rabbi's home in Monsey, my cousin Amy posted a meme on Facebook, a photo of her and her husband above the words: "I Stand Against Anti-Semitism." I posted back: "These are my cousins. I stand with them." She posted back. "Thank you. We stand with you, too."
Now was that so hard?
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.