Hightower: Not in Our Town

Just when you think our world is headed straight to hell in a jet-powered handbasket, along comes a group of ordinary Americans standing up to the forces of ignorance and arrogance -- and winning! I'm talking about the good people of Billings, Montana, who found their town under assault not long ago by a wave of hate crimes launched by a gaggle of boneheaded, white supremacists. These days, our "America the Beautiful" seems to be experiencing an epidemic of such ugliness, not only in backwater "Bubba-Villas," but everywhere, including recent outbreaks in such liberal, genteel, and elite enclaves as Madison, Wisconsin, the San Francisco Bay Area and Saddle Brook, New Jersey. But when hatred raised its ugly head in Billings, folks didn't just look the other way or cluck their tongues in private -- they rose up publicly and in unison. When a Native American, Dawn Fast Horse, found swastikas and the words "Indians Suck" scrawled on her house, the local painters union came over a couple of days later with about 150 people and quickly repainted her whole house in a show of town unity; when a band of skinheads entered an African American church and stood glowering at the frightened churchgoers, whites rallied behind that church and began attending services there to back-off the skinheads; when a chunk of cinderblock was thrown through the window of a Jewish family because they had a menorah in it, the Billings Gazette printed a full-page, color picture of a menorah and 10,000 residents cut out that picture and put it in their windows. Billings teaches us that combatting hatred is not a job for cops or politicians, but for the whole community, for each of us to say: "Not in out town, you don't." Because the people of Billings stood up, hatred had to stand down. You can stand up too. To learn more about the "Not In Our Town" campaign, call 510-547-8484.

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