By Ralph Filicchia
“Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice….” Barack Obama
In early May of 2007 one man noticed a sign in front of his Town Hall that read: This Is A No Place For Hate Community. He inquired about the sign and found it had to do with a “No Place For Hate” proclamation the town had signed with the Anti-Defamation League. He read the Proclamation and decided he did not agree with it, considering it a threat to his freedom of speech and expression as a free American.
A week later, he appeared before the Town Council of Watertown, Mass. and demanded that the sign and proclamation be done away with for the above reason, and also because he found them offensive. The Town Council of this very liberal town of 32,000 people decided to ignore his request.
The fight began.
The man started with letters to the editor in the local paper. A few people here and there began agreeing with him, but the Town Council continued to ignore his request. Momentarily frustrated, the man bought a 3 by 5 Confederate flag and hung it in front of his house over the front lawn as a public sign of rebellion against the town’s position.
The Boston Globe newspaper got wind of the story and sent a photographer out to get a shot of the man and his flag, with some of the man’s accompanying comments. The picture and story appeared in the June 24 issue of the Boston Globe and as a result was seen by thousands in the greater Boston area.
One man from the adjoining city of Newton contacted the man twice to inquire about the turmoil in Watertown. The first man suggested that this man send a letter to the local Watertown paper and give him some support. The man from Newton did this, and in his letter mentioned that the Anti-Defamation League was lobbying Congress not to recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915-1922, so why was Watertown involved with the ADL’s NPFH program?
Why was that important? Watertown Mass. has the 2nd highest population of Armenians in The United States — and they did not take too kindly to this news. This was the spark that started the fire!
At the same time a columnists for the weekly Watertown paper began hammering the issue demanding that the NPFH and its sign be dumped as the town leaders had no business getting involved in issues of this nature and should stick to worrying about potholes and police salaries, etc.
The uproar from the town’s approx 8,000 Armenian citizens began to overflow into other communities and was noticed by Armenian congregations in other parts of the country, especially in the Los Angeles area. It wasn’t long before some Jewish groups began scolding Abraham Foxman, head of the ADL, for trying to suppress information on the Armenian genocide. (The Armenians and the Turks have a good relationship and Turkey had evidently asked the ADL to pressure Congress not to push the matter for its own political reasons.) At this point the story really took off! Front page articles in the Boston Globe were filled with news of the ADLs crisis in leadership. The conflict was picked up on the internet and actually went worldwide, even being reported in Jewish publications based in Brussels, Belgium, and inquired about by the Jerusalem Post in Israel, and also by almost every Armenian publication in the USA.
At its next meeting the Watertown Town Council, under pressure they could no longer face, voted unanimously to throw out the “No Place For Hate” program. The Proclamation was rescinded and the sign taken down that very night. One councilor even began a campaign to ask other cities and towns in eastern Mass. to dump their NPFH program in deference to the Armenian people in Watertown.
As of this writing, 13 towns around the greater Boston area have thrown out the ADLs “No Place For Hate” program. There is no way of knowing what can happen if even one man stands up publicly and says, “Hey, wait a minute. I don’t agree with this!” You could start an avalanche for something good that has been waiting to happen and that could snowball worldwide, and that never would have happened if you had kept your complaints to yourself and your own inner circle.