Hate Speech as a Sport

Holocaust survivor Jack Adler (left) with his son, Eli, at Auschwitz, where Jack was an inmate during World War II. (Monise Neuman)


Above:  Jack Adler, and his son, Eli. A documentary “Surviving Skokie.” Playing in Chicago for 3 days.

When I was 5 yrs old, I watched a TV show. It portrayed the ovens of concentration camps, being emptied of skeletons. These were bodies of children, mothers, and fathers, burned to death by the Nazis. I knew my father, Zozzy, fought in WWII in Europe. So I asked him about this awful movie. Even as a little girl, I knew my Dad must have seen or heard something.

So, I went up to him at the kitchen table, told my father about this movie, and asked him, “Daddy, did you see any of those horrible things?”

Zozzy stood up, took a moment, turned his back to me, and stared outside the window. Still looking at the snow-covered branches, he replied, “Janie, it was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”  He paused. He reflected. And I waited, as he drew his breath in. And he kept looking outside, while I saw his large chest moving in and out.

He then turned around, and looked straight at me, with eyes that seemed to come from a burning soul. In a stern voice, Zozzy said, ” Janie, don’t you ever, EVER, ask me about this again!”  And he walked down the hallway, into his bedroom, closing the door.

Even as a 5 yr old., I knew what he meant. He was not mad at me – he never raised his voice, but only laughed and smiled, and many times let me sit shotgun in his cab, working 6 days/ week.

But this Sunday was different. There were no White Sox games to watch together, in March 1955. My brother, sister, and mom were out – and it was just the two of us. He was reading his Sun-Times, and I was just a little girl, who turned the TV on.

So fast forward 60 years. We have a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who did not refute the KKK when asked about David Duke (till 3 hours later, via Twitter). A week later , Trump gave a speech in Florida, telling his supporters to raise their right hand and salute. And promise to vote for him in the primary. And they did.

That picture, like the movie which froze my father, was about hate. Which has become a sport in and of itself – with teammates and high five’s, and winning the game, – or political primaries.

But we live in a democracy, which calls for freedom of speech. Yes, a hallowed right.

Yet, please tell me – where do we draw the line, between freedom of speech and hate speech?  When the hatred pierces our hearts and minds, as it did for me, when I heard that the Nazis were marching in Skokie. This small suburb, where my parents moved to, from the south side, during the time Jack Alder (above), was there too – a survivor of  the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Ask Erin Andrews, the sportswriter who was stalked, videotaped secretly in her hotel room, and sent hate tweets, for years, just because she was a woman doing her job.

She will never forget, traumatized. Nor will millions of others. For her, and for people like my Dad, or those like my father-in-law, who barely escaped from Vienna, Austria, a month before WWII began, their souls will never forget. Nor should we.

Hate speech, or free speech?


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