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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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The Flames of Hatred

By Susan Duhon

In 2016, I walked the streets of Oradour-Sur-Glane, France, thinking how lucky I was to live in Louisiana. In June of 1944, Hitler’s army herded the citizens of that small French village into the local church and massacred them. The town is left as a memorial to that fateful day where 642 people died because they supported the “wrong side.” I was horrified by the carnage and so very thankful that something like that would never happen in America.

In 2000, I had moved from New York City to a small, southern town with a big heart. The people I met laughed at my “yankee” accent but didn’t reject me because I was different.

Then, in 2023, I visited Vukovar, a small town in Croatia that bears the heavy scars of war. In 1991, neighbors murdered one another in battles of ethnic cleansing, because neither side could accept the other’s right to disagree. This time, I walked the streets where atrocities had taken place and was frightened for my chosen hometown and my nation.

When did we open the doors to hate? When did it become acceptable to ridicule those with whom we disagree? When did we close our ears and refuse to hear? When did the phrase, “you’re not from here,” replace “so happy to meet you?”

Name-calling and slander are not substitutes for intelligent, adult discussions. Bullies win when we allow them to do so.

It is up to each of us to condemn hatred, because history has shown us how dangerous it can be. We can disagree with one another without contempt.

Intolerance is a flame that can burn down a nation.

ED. NOTE: Susan Duhon writes from Many, Louisiana

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