It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’ve joined the Local Love Brigade to help counter hate with love. The Local Love Brigade – Vermont maintains a list of people who’ve been victimized by hate crimes, a list that’s been growing since the election of Donald Trump.
In the week following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented more than 700 instances of “hateful harassment,” across the country, including in Vermont. Swastikas were scrawled on the door of Havurah House in Middlebury and on a Trump sign near Hillel House at the University of Vermont; and “F*** MUSLIMS#TRUMP2016” was written on a whiteboard outside a Middlebury College dorm room occupied by two Muslim students.
Instead of flowers and chocolate for people who already know I love them, I’m drawing hearts on postcards and sending messages of love to some of the people who have been victims of this kind of hate. First, I’m sending love to Vermonters who’ve been targeted in this nasty political climate where bigots have been emboldened to:
- Repeatedly steal Black Lives Matter signs from the front yard of a man in Monkton;
- Write hateful messages scrawled on the car of an ESL teacher in Vernon;
- Publish and distribute anti-Semitic flyers at Burlington City Council Meeting.
After sending Valentines to Vermonters who’ve been targeted, I’m sending hearts and love to others on the list published by the Local Love Brigade – Vermont.
I was astounded by this list, both by how long it is and because I’d not known of these events, even though I’ve tuned back into the news after a post-election blackout for my mental health. I learned that while I wasn’t paying attention
- three waves of bomb threats were called in to over 30 Jewish community centers around the country;
- Swastikas have defaced Jewish-affiliated buildings in Sarasota, Florida; in Esperance, New York; and Cincinnati, Ohio;
- A mosque was burned down in Bellevue, Washington;
- Neo-Nazi graffiti defaced the sign at a mosque in Peoria, Illinois;
- A racial slur was painted on the garage door of an interracial couple in Stamford, Connecticut;
- The Islamic Center at Davis at the University of California was vandalized;
- A Muslim airline worker was attacked at JFK airport in New York City;
- A mosque was burned in Victoria, Texas.
Unfortunately, the list grows daily.
Fortunately, sending a postcard of love is easy. All you need is a 4 x 6 index card, some markers and a 34-cent stamp. We’re encouraged to post photos of our Love Brigade Postcards to Facebook and join the group. #LocalLoveBrigade #Spread the love #LoveTrumpsHate
Roses and chocolate are all very nice, but in the end, roses wilt and chocolate melts. Stories last as long as they’re told.
I’ll happily email you a short story to create change every week; just subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the box at the right, then check your inbox to confirm that you’re a reader and not a robot.
You can also read my award-winning novel, Into the Wilderness, a love story relevant to our times. Into the Wilderness tells the story of Rose Mayer, a twice-widowed New York immigrant who’s also a union card carrying Democrat, and Percy Mendell, a dyed-in-the-wool Vermont Republican. The two meet in small town Vermont in 1964 and clash over national politics: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and civil rights before finding common ground in music, aging, tomatoes, and love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Dana Grossman says
What a wonderful project, Deb! We’ve been regularly calling and writing legislators (our own and those from elsewhere that either deserve kudos or seem susceptible to persuasion), but this action seems personal and positive. I’ll be pulling out some 4×6 cards as soon as I hit the “Post Comment” button below!
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Dana, Thanks so much for letting me know! You’ve validated my action of telling stories as a way of inspiring others to take action. And thanks for all the phone calls you and Dan are making. We have to fill all those voicemail boxes and keep all those legislative aids busy tallying our thoughts, beliefs and hopes for our nation. Clearly, just voting is not enough! All best, Deb.
Kathryn bonnez says
Thanks for sharing this and for what you’re doing. Frankly, I was stunned to learn that these kinds of things are happening in Vermont. I’m so in love with the place and connect so much with its long history of tolerance and live-and-let-live attitude that now I think I’ve over-romanticized it. That all these hateful behavoirs are coming out of the woodwork lately makes me think I’ve been naive and over-generous about believing in the goodness and decency of Americans. I guess all we can do is actions that counteract the negative ones. I was supposed to work with the Syrian refugees in Rutland this spring, but as far as I know they’re not coming anymore. I just want to do something more than calling and writing legislators. But of course I’ll continue to do that too. See you in the spring!
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Hi Kathryn, Yes, it’s easy to romanticize Vermont, and for good reason. Even though we have our share of ugly behavior here – just as anywhere – we also have such low population density that it’s harder for people to be anonymous. I think people are less likely to say and do mean things to people they know and who know them. We live in personal relationship here, which may be why we’re able to use Restorative Justice practices as an alternative to incarceration so effectively. But Vermont’s history includes some dark chapters: Eugenics and the KKK are two off the top of my head. Vermont also defeated the 19th amendment, which ultimately gave women the right to vote.
The landscape can be deceiving: it’s very beautiful here. But there’s also desperate poverty and heartbreaking drug addiction in addition to maple syrup, idyllic summers, fall foliage, and terrific snow.
Thanks for your comments – and for the phone calls and emails to legislators. They’re critically important, now more than ever! ~Deborah.
Joanna Rueter says
Thank you for this post Deb. I’m only reading it now- having read your more recent one first. Now, when I see the long list you have here it seems somewhat ironic that a reader took issue with one detail- exactly what sort of building was defaced in Esperance, New York.
Having been heavily involved in our local Diversity Day back in May 2009 and the excellent Teen Leadership program that summer – it is so clear that we humans have the ability to hurt, act in hundreds of hurtful ways, and also to learn more loving behavior and work to heal our society.
Thank you for your part in this quest and for sharing your experience and perspective in your blog. Thankfully there are many working to “Give (Love and) Peace a Chance!”