American leaders in recent years have often spoken about the U.S. having a hostile political and social climate; a climate in which people are not tolerant of others’ views and in which disagreements sometimes degenerate into verbal or physical assaults.
Certainly many of us have encountered such instances or felt the sting of another person’s unprovoked hatred at some point in our lives, perhaps in the form of blind political opposition, religious intolerance or racial prejudice.
And there have been times when an ideology has endangered our personal safety, such as when Dylann Roof killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston or when Omar Mateen opened fire at an Orlando gay nightclub, murdering 49 and injuring dozens of others — and killing many LGBT people’s already tenuous sense of safety.
Or when pro-Nazi materials were uncovered in a Long Island home alongside numerous weapons and a manual on how to make a bomb.
The Nazis did not go away with the end of World War II; the disgusting, disturbing views of Adolf Hitler have lived on in people throughout the world, whether they specifically support the swastika or simply have similar ideas and values. So it’s hard to say whether two brothers who were arrested after authorities with a search warrant seized framed photos of Hitler, Nazi flags, and books on white supremacy — as well as guns, drugs and other items — from their North Shore home last week, were always Hitler fans or just persuaded by the recent U.S. social climate.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important more than ever to be vigilant and to speak out when our gut tells us something is wrong.
Mateen had been an aggressive person throughout his life and had made violent threats before, according to media reports. Some incidents were reported at the time and others not until our nation was picking up the pieces after he exploded at Pulse.
Maybe things could have been different if more people around Mateen had the courage to speak out when he said troubling things or displayed violent or unstable tendencies.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said community tips helped authorities ahead of their raid last week at the brothers’ Mount Sinai home. One neighbor described knowing something bad was going on because of a brawl outside the home, cars coming and going at all hours and prescription medication found in the street.
And that was not the first time neighborhood callers helped catch dangerous criminals in Suffolk, or anywhere else for that matter.
Please, don’t be afraid of being wrong or sounding prejudiced. If you get a bad feeling about something, if you suspect something strange is going on, it probably is. Call the police — they are encouraging it — and help us keep our families and friends safe.