Time to speak out against hate, Idaho

Times-News (Twin Falls)

Want to stare hate in the face?

No need to seek it out in the evening news. Why look to Nice, France, or San Bernardino, Calif., or Bangladesh or Iraq or Louisiana or Minnesota or any number of places where unspeakable acts of hatred have rocked the world in recent months?

It’s right here at home.

Twin Falls city officials have received more than 100 emails in the fallout from the Fawnbrook Apartment case, where police say a 5-year-old was assaulted by young boys. Authorities have released few details about the case — customary when juveniles are involved — but that hasn’t stopped Islamophobes and racists from spinning lies about what really happened to fuel their hatred-driven agenda.

Don’t take our word for it. Times-News Reporter Nathan Brown quotes directly from the screeds in a story in a July 17 story. It’s simply shocking.

One writer said the council deserved bullets in their heads. Others talked about raping the wives and children of council members.

The worst emails were left unsigned, making it hard to determine whether the writers were locals, but at least a dozen were clearly from Idaho, officials said. The FBI is investigating the threats.

Is this who we have become? An angry mob threatening to kill and rape our local elected leaders over their handling of a case whose details have been grossly overblown?

This bears repeating: A girl was victimized, and as a community our hearts should go out to her and her family. But this case isn’t validation of the nefarious-Muslim narrative those opposed to refugee resettlement have tried so desperately to frame it as.

Rather than revealing some truth about the dangers of multiculturalism, this case has instead served to reveal our own ugly biases and insecurities.

This isn’t the first time we’ve written to condemn hatred, and sadly, it likely won’t be the last. We’re committed to calling out hatred whenever and wherever we see it. Anything less, and the hate will only continue to fester, to spread in our community like a cancer.

But our voice won’t be enough. Now is the time for the community to make clear that such hatred has no place in Twin Falls and the Magic Valley. The College of Southern Idaho (sponsor of the federally run resettlement program), the city, the business community — everyone — has a responsibility to help shape our ethos and our culture.

That has yet to happen in any collective sense, so hatred has largely filled the vacuum over the past year in Twin Falls, at CSI board meetings, in street rallies, at public comment forums at City Council, and perhaps in the kind of quiet conversations with friends and relatives that make us cringe but not enough to speak up and counter their ignorance.

Perhaps you feel too polite. Maybe as a business owner you’re worried taking a stand could jeopardize your company. Maybe as an elected official you’re concerned standing up to hate will hurt your chances for re-election.

Maybe. But now is not the time for silence. Now is the time for courage.

Now is the time to redefine our region’s story, to overpower the hatred by lauding all that makes the Magic Valley such a special place to live. Because if we don’t, and Twin Falls becomes synonymous with bigotry, forget about attracting new companies to the area. Forget about the progress we’ve all worked so hard to attain. Forget about giving your children a life better than the one you had.

Instead, those of us who don’t move away to flee will be left in a town where we passively accepted death threats to our elected officials, hatred to our neighbors.

And we’ll wish we would have spoken up a lot sooner.