By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – Wednesday was already going to be a long day for me, but it wasn’t helped by the fact that we received an early morning bomb threat to the schools. I dutifully called it in to the Davis Police and, in talking to the police officer, noted that while I figured there was nothing to it, I would never forgive myself if something, god forbid, did happen and I didn’t do my duty.
On Thursday, another long day, I was relieved to find no additional threats in my inbox.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world again, where such things are not contemplated?
So here we are—barely a month past the library event that was shut down. The irony of it all is I still agree it shouldn’t have been shut down. But any moral high ground that once existed has long since evaporated.
Moreover, as the police have told me, the person or people behind the threats—perhaps it is more than one—have covered their tracks fairly well.
The problem is that we live in a world where there are not just empty threats. We have a world also inhabited with Timothy McVeigh. Eric Rudolph. Dylann Roof. Robert Bowers. And too many others to name or count.
Some of the most dangerous people are those who are mentally unstable and influenced by extremist rhetoric into believing that killing tons of people is somehow god’s work.
So as much as I’d like for us to ignore it and believe it would quickly go away, we can’t do that.
That leads us to the next best alternative—defeat hate with love.
I am not advocating a passive resistance to what is really an act of terrorism. This is not a matter of turning the other cheek. Rather this is an active resistance to evil.
Yes, this is terrorism. Someone is angry. They might be angry that the event was cut off. More likely at this point, it goes beyond that, and they want to affect the social agenda of this community and more broadly this nation.
There are places, in this country and this state, where such tactics might bear fruit.
But not in Davis. If anything the repeated bomb threats are likely to have the opposite effect. If the LGBTQ community feels vulnerable and isolated, they only need to know that the majority of the people in this community have their back.
When public officials make strong statements, part of the importance of that—despite scattered criticism at time—is that it sends a message that this community stands for certain values and we will not waiver on those values in the face of threats.
Strong statements. A show of solidarity.
Mayor Will Arnold embodied that with his statement this week, “These continued terrorist threats directed at our children, teachers and public servants are absolutely unacceptable. We stand strong as a community against this hateful, extremist behavior. Hateful words can have violent consequences and we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions and their repercussions.”
He called this what it is—a “terrorist threat.”
And, most importantly, he was not alone.
Board President Lea Darrah called out the “ongoing intolerance and hate.”
Supervisor Provenza called the threats “cowardly and hateful.”
And Lucas Frerichs added that the Board of Supervisors “stands in partnership with the City of Davis and Davis Joint Unified School District to condemn these repeated terrorism threats.”
That’s a very strong united front from three different local agencies.
Let’s be clear. This is no longer about free speech.
The message was not a threat of violence and physical harm. And the message was not about the right to speak, but rather, anti-LGBTQ— “what you teach isn’t just garbage but its poison and we’re not going to stand idly by as you brainwash the next generation with your sick perverted fantasy and create further division in our country.”
Moreover, not only was it directed to the school district, but it was directed to two individual district employees at their homes.
The message from this community is clear—enough. This far, no further.
But also the message should be: you are only going to make us stronger by doing this. Not only are we not going to bow down to personal threats, but we are in fact going to make sure that we continue to back and support our LGBTQ students and community members and they need to remember that they are surrounded by and live in a community that loves and supports them.
That’s how you defeat hate… with love and support.
And those who continue to sow this dissension need to recognize and understand the hate they are unleashing. This is not the way to achieve your goals. This is only going to polarize the community and will isolate you from it.