Less than a week before Christmas, I was thinking about bomb threats. Not the ideal holiday reflection, but I haven’t been able to shake the news about synagogues in Alabama and nationwide that were threatened via email last weekend.
Thank God, all apparently were hoaxes. But that doesn’t diminish the evil of these threats.
Synagogues in Auburn, Daphne, Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma were targeted. Across the nation, more than 400 Jewish facilities were affected.
False bomb threats are cowardly, lazy acts of terrorism. So easy to sit in the comfort of Grandma’s basement with a burner phone in one hand and a donut in the other, false bravado on full display.
Racist false bomb threats are not only cowardly and lazy, they are stupid. So you terrorize a group of people for being of a different race – something they can do nothing about – to accomplish what, exactly? You want them to renounce their race?
You want them to go back to where they or their ancestors were born? What if they “came from” here – making them as American as you?
Even if they weren’t born here, what makes them less eligible to be here than you? What entitles you the right to determine who gets to be an American and who doesn’t?
You want them dead? Injured? Living in fear? How does any of that make your sorry life any better?
Another argument for the stupidity of race-based threats of violence: People who have been historically disenfranchised don’t scare easily. Definitely not as easily as bigots who try to terrorize them.
Synagogues aren’t going to be closing because of these threats. The Anti-Defamation League isn’t going to close up shop.
No. What they’re going to do is dig in and double down. They’re going to keep worshipping. Keep monitoring anti-Semitism and racism. They’re going to keep being Jewish.
“As soon as we stay away, that means the people who did this have won,” said Rabbi Scott Kramer of Montgomery’s Agudath Israel Etz Ahayem Synagogue to the media.
Jews have been dealing with oppression for several thousand years. Hate hasn’t extinguished them yet. Why these faux terrorists think their threats will matter in the long-term is a mystery.
Not only have the Jewish people proven that they don’t scare off, the bigots apparently have forgotten that they have back up. After learning that Congregation Mayim Chayim in Daphne had gotten a bomb threat, members of Coastal Church, visited the synagogue to show their support and offer their church as a space to worship.
My first wife and I sat in a movie theater in Huntsville 31 years ago, waiting to see Spike Lee’s epic film Malcolm X. There were only a handful of us in the auditorium.
Before the film could begin, theater personnel came in and told us we had to leave. Someone had called in a bomb threat. Shortly after we left, a bomb-sniffing canine unit entered.
Less than 30 minutes later, we were told no bomb had been found. Reassuring, but not completely. We had to decide whether to go back in or not.
We did. As the rabbi later would say, if we hadn’t returned to the film, the bigots trying to terrorize us would have won.
Sitting here in my home office, 30-plus years removed, it’s easy to say it was worth it to go back in and see Denzel Washington transform himself into the influential and controversial Muslim icon. But what if the police had been wrong? What if a bomb had been detonated after they cleared the theater?
Would it have been worth it to sustain serious injuries or be killed, trying to watch Malcolm X? My common sense says “no.” But something outside of logic – call it my spirit or conscience – has a different answer.
Maybe I have a reckless sense of defiance, but we can’t let the bigots and terrorists win. The cost may be high sometimes, but the day we let them win is the day we give away our souls.
Dr. King said it best: “A man who does not have something for which he is willing to die, is not fit to live.”