At one point in my life, I got used to the sort of casual anti-Semitism that often occurs in the workplace in Las Vegas. Since I moved here, I’ve had to hear at least two dozen people in clubs, restaurants and shops talk about “Jews” in a way that is both insulting and bigoted. The comments usually occurred when they would call someone cheap a “Jew” or imply that someone was a crook by them acting “Jewish.” Often I would say something, and they would apologize, just saying it was “a joke.”
Enter Camille Desiree, a local in Vegas who made a comment that during Halloween people were being “Jews” by not giving enough candy to her. Several people mentioned on Facebook that was a bigoted comment, anti-Semitic – and instead of people finding these comments disgusting, most people defended it again, as “Just a joke.”
I that she tagged her kids as #nazi and her and her friends responses to inquires was met with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel memes, this isn’t “just a joke.” It’s religious bigotry and anti-Semitism of the worst kind. These “casual comments” don’t just hurt, but they do create an environment for more devious types of bigotry.
I know that hatred, bigotry and discrimination remain a fact of daily life for far too many people in this country. But what makes the recent surge in anti-semitism stand out – and what makes it particularly worrying – is the number and range of people who are prepared to ignore it, excuse it and, worst of all, indulge in it.
More than that, the mainstream embrace of low-level, casual bigotry creates fertile ground in which the noxious weed of anti-semitism can take root and grow. Just as one broken window in a neighborhood, left in disrepair, leads to an enviroment in which vandalism and decay is seen as a normal part of life, so casual anti-semitism, left unchallenged, leads to an world in which extremism, and then violence, will thrive.
We need to make clear this is not acceptable from anyone, under any circumstance. Period.