Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Hatred has many synonyms — abhorrence, revulsion, disgust, loathing — and they all apply to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s horrid comments last week, equating masks and vaccines that battle the Covid-19 pandemic to Hitler’s treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. When the media asked her to explain, she doubled down and reiterated her position.

This is not new behavior for the freshman Representative from Georgia. In her few short months as a Member of Congress, Ms. Greene has made numerous outrageous verbal attacks about her colleagues, the January 6 assault on the Capitol, President Biden’s inauguration, and other treasured democratic values.

Ms. Greene’s resume indicates that she graduated from the University of Georgia, whose well-known mascot is a bulldog. Whether Ms. Greene cut her history classes is unknown but, at the very least, her Holocaust comments reveal an alarming lack of historical context. One can’t begin to know what’s going on in Ms. Greene’s head — is it theatre, fundraising, the spotlight, a misunderstanding of the role of an elected official — but we can control what’s going on in our own heads, and not parrot the bad behaviors of those who should know better.

In October 2018, following a spray-painted hate attack at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, my column focused on hate crimes, and the fact that hate crimes, never the “old normal,” should not be accepted as the “new normal.” In that column, I wrote “the haters didn’t win.

“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.” Sadly, the toxic atmosphere that permeated our nation then is here still, with more people affected, most recently Asian-Americans. Regardless of the race, religion, or culture attacked, verbally or physically, hate is hate. In 1921, hate manifested itself in the massacre and destruction of Black neighborhoods in the Greenwood region of Tulsa, Oklahoma; in 2021, hate spews from Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, ordinary citizens, and sadly, some elected officials.

In that 2018 column, even though the Trump Administration had a firm lock on the White House, I was hopeful that supporting the rights so beautifully outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic (same language is in the oath of office taken by Members of Congress) might reverse, or block, the pathways of hate.

Instead, it seems that some people are emboldened, using First Amendment rights as a cudgel against ideas, rather than an opportunity for dialogue, education, and understanding. Again, quoting from my 2018 column, “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.”

It’s easy to declare that we live in a pluralistic society and then return to our own biases, but pluralism is composed of many different aspects. When you peel away layers of assumptions, bred through generations of family, or culture, or tradition, you discover tantalizing connections that might foster greater insight, and greater opportunities for understanding friends and neighbors. Discovery also may reveal greater injustice, often one-sided, sometimes not.

Whether ordinary citizen or elected official, we each share a responsibility to speak out against hate and its cousins — apathy, indifference, intolerance, bigotry — now and each time they raise their vile heads.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.