Hate has reared its ugly head again in our community. Nineteen swastikas were spray painted on the windows and brick walls of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCCNV) last weekend. The deed was done on the Jewish Sabbath, which made the attack even more poignant. Security cameras captured images of a masked perpetrator in the darkened hours of early morning pointing a spray can at the building.
It takes only a few minutes to smear 19 swastikas across a building. It takes longer to remove them, which is exactly what happened Saturday morning. After the police were called to investigate the crime, a team of volunteers pitched in to remove the offensive symbols, in the broad light of day, an apt counterpoint to the skulking image captured on the video in the dark.
Sadly, hate attacks on the JCCNV, and other faith communities, are nothing new. One of my first appearances at the center as an elected official, more than 20 years ago, was a community vigil following the discovery of swastikas and hateful slogans on the (then) fairly new building. Hundreds of people gathered in response, and I recall clearly sitting in the gymnasium as the convocation began, when security personnel in dark suits hurriedly came to the stage and whispered something to the speaker, who immediately ordered that evacuation to the parking lot outside; a bomb threat had been received. A community gathering against hate was interrupted by another hateful threat. Everyone filed out quietly to the parking lot, admittedly dismayed by the additional threat. It was a gorgeous evening, and the vigil had an even greater impact with lots of candles flickering against the inky velvet sky.
The haters didn’t win, though. They may keep trying, but they never will win. Our community, and communities across the region, the commonwealth, and the nation, must stand united against hate, in any form. The often toxic atmosphere that permeates our nation today has encouraged demonstrations of hate and the most awful commentary by the president and others. This was never the “old normal.” Nor should it be accepted as the “new normal.”
Our nation fought wars, at home and abroad, to protect what the Declaration of Independence identified as “certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Those same wars defended our Constitution, and its First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and redress of grievances. No other nation on earth enjoys such a breadth of freedom and opportunity, and we will be well-served if we can focus on our similarities, rather than our differences, but with true respect nonetheless. It’s what we do; it’s what we must do.
Mason District lost another longtime citizen with the passing of William Benteen Bailey, at the age of 84, late last month. Following his naval career, Bill and his family resided in Annandale, where he was president of the Broyhill Crest Civic Association, and chairman of the Mason District Council. In 1995, Bill and I ran against each other for the open Mason District Supervisor seat, a race I won narrowly. Bill’s commitment to his community, and the Bailey’s Crossroads Rotary, was admirable. He is survived by his wife, Alice, and family.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]