The desecration of the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise with swastika stickers was reprehensible and unfortunately a stark reminder that our work in eradicating white supremacy and ignorance is still not finished.
This cowardly act of placing the stickers, which carried the message, “We are everywhere,” was done in the shadows of the night, an acknowledgment that their message has no place in the light of day.
The memorial stands for the resilience of the human spirit of an innocent little girl who kept a diary for two years while hiding from the Nazis, only to be taken to a concentration camp, where she died. The memorial also stands as a painful reminder of the potential for human atrocity, but with the hope that it may never happen again.
The fact that Boise is home to the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States is a point of tremendous pride for many of us. Unfortunately, because of this incident, Boise trended in the national news for all the wrong reasons.
If we say nothing, we are complicit. If we look the other way or shrug our shoulders, we allow it to fester. It’s incumbent upon us and every elected official who cares about Idaho to speak out against this in the strongest words possible.
As many of us know, Idaho has long suffered a reputation for being a haven for white supremacy, earned by being the location of the headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Kootenai County up until 2001. Unfortunately, the echoes of those dark days can still be heard and serve only to damage Idaho’s reputation across the country. Any small outbreak like what we witnessed last week at the Anne Frank memorial resparks that flame and takes us backward in our efforts to rehabilitate our image and distance ourselves from those views.
We like to think we have tamped down those views, put out the fire, but here we are again having to deal with an ugly act of ignorance.
This is a gut check for our community, and it’s a call to double down on our human rights efforts; otherwise, we may find ourselves swimming in that cesspool yet again.
We need look no further than an ugly protest that took place over the summer in Boise, at which angry protesters showed up displaying Nazi symbols and tattoos. Those protesters may have slithered back out of Boise after the protest, but they’re still out there, ready to spread their hateful message and dangerous ideology.
And yet, Idaho legislators, when presented with an opportunity to help quell Idaho’s reputation as a home for hate, have failed to take action.
In the final day of the 2020 legislative session, Republican Reps. Jim Addis, Neil Anderson, Kevin Andrus, Randy Armstrong, Vito Barbieri, Judy Boyle, Chad Christensen, Gary Collins, Brent Crane, Gayann DeMordaunt, Sage Dixon, Priscilla Giddings, Bill Goesling, Steven Harris, Ryan Kerby, Mike Kingsley, Megan Kiska, Gary Marshall, Ron Mendive, Dorothy Moon, Tammy Nichols, Joe Palmer, Tim Remington, Doug Ricks, Heather Scott, Paul Shepherd, Thyra Stevenson, Jarom Wagoner, Gary Wisniewski, Julianne Young, Christy Zito and Bryan Zollinger all voted “no” on a bill to create a “Too Great For Hate” license plate, sales of which would have benefited the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.
One cannot help but think that voting against such a simple yet impactful, positive bill provides cover to those hate-mongers lying in wait, now vindicated in knowing that those Republican legislators voted in their favor, a wink and a nod from their state legislators that they have an ally in the Capitol.
Does it not now embolden these miscreants to crawl out of their shadows and commit a hateful act that we saw last week? We can’t mollycoddle hate.
Everyone in Idaho needs to come together now—our governor, our state legislators, our congressional delegation, as well as every city council member and county commissioner who wants to see our state continue to thrive—to denounce hate and white supremacy, to say it doesn’t belong in Idaho, it has no place here, and if you espouse hate and white supremacy, you are not welcome in Idaho.
There are signs of hope.
Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya donated $20,000 to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. Healthwise donated and bought a billboard with the message ``We are everywhere,’’ smartly stealing the phrase from Nazis hiding in the shadows.
You can do your part by letting your state and federal legislators know that Idaho is too great for hate and urge them to speak out against racism and hate. You can make a donation to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.
If we do not stand up to these people and declare this is not who we are, then we will lose Idaho to these people. Idaho could once again be that haven, that bastion for white supremacist terrorists, if we say nothing.
The writer Elie Wiesel, who knew well the horrors of the Holocaust, wrote, ``We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’’
Now is not the time for indifference, Idaho. Now is not the time for silence. Now is the time to take sides. Which side are you on?
The Idaho Statesman’s Editorial Board originally published this piece on Dec. 16.