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By Sherry Listgarten

Someone hung a swastika in my front yard

Uploaded: Sep 6, 2020

Around 4am on Friday someone hung a swastika in our front yard. They biked down our street in the wee hours with a sheaf of carefully stapled papers, stopping to hang one over each Black Lives Matter sign. At our house they walked across the yard, stepping over the plants to get to the placard by our stone wall, where they draped their own notice over it.

The notice, printed on legal-size white paper, had a prominent swastika and a long essay equating the Black Lives Matter movement with fascism. I didn’t read it. I am not interested in listening to people who engage in such tactics. They may not have known that nearly all of my father’s family was killed by Nazis. But they must have known that they were distributing a virulent symbol of hate on their neighbors’ property.

So. What is there to say about this? And why am I writing about this in a blog on climate change?

For one thing, people should not be so afraid to express their views that they resort to skulking around their neighborhood at 4am. Own your views and use your own yard. Write a letter to the editor, or whatever the equivalent is these days. Speak up at city meetings and in conversations with your community.

This Mountain View homeowner was always happy to own his views on his own property. (Photo courtesy of the Mountain View Voice.)

To help with that, our community should be tolerant of considered dissent. There is nothing wrong (and much right) with expressing gratitude for the police, for lauding the good people of the force, for cautioning that they have a difficult and essential job, for worrying that we may throw out the baby with the bath water, for asking questions and suggesting alternatives. There are all kinds of good reasons why a person may be concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement. Dissenters do us all a favor when they speak honestly, cogently, and empathetically about their concerns. We can help with that by welcoming respectful debate and working to minimize feelings of defensiveness.

But. If you find yourself lurking in the shadows to promote your views, if you cannot respectfully advocate for them, you need to find other options. Hate symbols like swastikas have no place in our neighborhoods. A neighbor who saw these signs hesitated at first to remove them, concerned about suppressing dissent and a right to “free speech”. But this is neither respectful dissent nor legitimate free speech. It is disseminating hate symbols and trespassing. One neighbor notified the police and later stopped by to talk with affected households about what she had seen and done. A few early-risers cleared away the signs. They were all gone before 7am.

I am posting this in a blog about climate change because it reflects how divisive our messages have become and how parts of our society are increasingly inured to hate and hate speech. We must work against this by encouraging productive conversation and combating hate when we see it. We have faced some difficult problems this year and more are sure to come. Climate change is and will be a powerful stressor, while also providing tremendous opportunities. We need to work together to make the most of those opportunities, to find solutions, to provide productive and satisfying livelihoods for all, to strengthen our economy and our communities, and to help our most vulnerable. These times call for a generosity of spirit and an openness, not a withdrawal into isolationism and meanness. Respectful and thoughtful communication is a big part of that.

Reminder: Please avoid unnecessary electricity use between 2pm and 9pm today and tomorrow (Sunday and Labor Day), and especially 6pm-9pm. The forecast peak is nearly 50 GW and close to California’s record high. If you have A/C, set it to 78 if possible. Pull down your window shades, park yourself in the slipstream of a low-powered fan, and sip an icy drink! Stay cool everyone, and let’s keep the lights on!

Power outlook for Sunday September 6 posted at 5:30am by CAISO.

Notes and References
1. The Atlantic had a thoughtful article a few years ago on a framework for thinking about various movements on the far right and left.

Current Climate Data (July 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Record-setting heat was pervasive in the southwest this August. (Source: The WestWide Drought Tracker. Click on Climate, then Temperature, then Anomaly, then Last Full Month)

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