Nazi symbols in the Bathroom and the End of the Work/Personal Life Divide

Dear readers – the following piece is more sobering and serious than many of our usual posts but in light of recent stories from Bethesda area schools I thought it necessary. Please feel free to email me with thoughts at raj@rajabout.com. I should note, for the record, that these comments are in my individual capacity (as ever) and should not be attributed in any way to any organization I am affiliated with (be that in real estate, academia or otherwise). Thank you!

Nazi symbols in the Bathroom and the End of the Work/Personal Life Divide

In the days since the conclusion of the 2016 Presidential election, the country has been roiled by emotion. From unconfined joy to utter despair, supporters of each candidate have reacted in ways that reflect the polarized, winner take all nature of our current body politic. Much of that is to be expected and understood, the stakes were high in this last election and the competing visions seemed worlds apart.

What has caught many off guard, although warning signs were there during the campaign, has been the sharp spike in racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic incidents in the days since the polls closed. Stories of despicable behavior are being shared with every increasing frequency. From school children targeting Latino classmates with chants about deportation and slurs being aimed at Indian Americans pumping gas, to Nazi symbols daubed on places of worship and cruel targeting of LGBT youth, there is a sense that decency has lost at the ballot box.

Unfortunately, at time of writing, the President elect has added fuel to the fire by picking a leader of the US Alt-Right movement as his senior White House advisor, a fact that is as disappointing as it is unsurprising. Elections have consequences is an old adage but the more important one is that great leadership brings with it great responsibility, and we must all hope, though perhaps not rely on, that lesson being eventually grasped by the next President.

Without leadership we have a vacuum. And that is really what I wanted to discuss in this post. What this election and its aftermath has started to bring into sharp relief is that it will be hard to put the genie of decency back in the bottle. When Nazi symbols are being daubed on the walls of Westland Middle and Burning Tree Elementary in Bethesda, it is past time for the community to react. We all must speak out publicly and unreservedly to condemn these actions and those who perpetrated them. More than that, we need to demand that all stakeholders recognize the new realities we are facing and develop tangible plans to unite our community against the hatred and intolerance that has been unleashed.

While I hope and believe that these steps can be taken, let me be clear, it is not enough. You see, I have high hopes that our community will make it through this period and emerge stronger and, yes, more united. However, for other communities around the country, the future is a lot less certain. What levers do the Muslim and Latino communities of this country have to pull when faced with chants about deportation and walls? A lot fewer than those of us who are fortunate to live here in progressive Bethesda or other similar places.

In light of that, it is up to us, those more privileged (due to education, wealth and role in society) to do much, much more. I have been blessed to be part of the Bethesda community for the best part of a decade and have come to understand that we have, among us, talent and influence on a scale that few communities can match. Now, after this election, we have to use those strengths to directly challenge the rise of hate we are seeing across the country.

What am I asking of you? In short, to rethink the way your personal beliefs about society and professional life interact. Yes, you should sign petitions and donate to organizations that are on the right side of these issues, but recognize that is no way close to being sufficient. When a country sees its very fabric begin to unravel, its citizens have an obligation to act not only during their private time but during their professional time. For example, if you run a contracting firm with high level political contacts,  referencing your profound concerns with those you are connected to is infinitely more significant than signing an e-petition to the White House.

I strongly believe that a community such as ours, can lead the way in resisting the tide of intolerance. And we can do so by making clear that everyone, from the President on down, has a responsibility to stand firmly and publicly against the hatred that this campaign has unleashed.

 

 

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