Opinion: It’s always darkest before the dawn

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By Billy Fried

Billy Fried

The Nazis were back in town this week, waving their freak flag.

Last time, it was a Main Beach rally – where they were easily out-flanked by residents itching to drown out their message of hate. This time it was a coordinated sneak attack known as Zoom-bombing on our unsuspecting City Council – where they impersonated residents during Public Comments.

It was a command performance of rancid tropes from anonymous keyboard warriors excoriating us on their downtrodden and miserable lives at the hands of “jews, gays, blacks and browns.” You know, those lucky elites who control everything. So I come not to bury Nazis, but to sympathize with them.

Thank you for foisting your little Hitler skit on an unsuspecting body of volunteer public officials so they could show the best of themselves under pressure while you sullied the meaning of free speech and any rights it confers. Thank you for showing the best of our new City Attorney, Megan Garibaldi, who stewarded us gracefully through the sticky shoals of First Amendment rights in public forums. Thank you to Mayor Sue Kempf for holding back her considerable fury over the personal attacks and staying the professional she is. And for clearing the room of porous people before allowing the hate crimes to continue. Thank you George Weiss for your instant repudiation of the filth. You and I don’t agree on much, but on the big stuff – the stuff that really matters – we are comrades. As, of course, we all are in this town.

And to the faceless, hidden perpetrators with the Nazi names and the hate in their hearts, thank you. We see your pain at being born white in America. And how all the other people seem to be working hard, getting ahead, and having fun. Your parents must have told you about those good old days. Thank you for illuminating how much hate you are still harboring after all these years of so-called racial progress. Thank you for airing your grievances instead of letting them fester just beneath the surface.

Thank you for the stark reminder to those of us in Laguna that we must be ever-vigilant to guard against this kind of vile behavior. You gave us the perfect road map for installing guardrails. Thank you for letting our children know that racism is alive and well. Thank you for the reminder that living in Laguna means embodying the full expression of our humanity, our philanthropy, and our compassion. Sure, we squabble about the little stuff – me a first among many – but this is our wake-up call to treat each other better. And with empathy. Because that is certainly what the world needs now.

And to the haters, we can only wish that you get a little love too. Because you’re clearly running a deficit. Probably not your fault alone. Sometime, somewhere, somebody blamed others for problems of their own making. And it struck a chord with you.

We’re sorry if the system left you behind and you are being kept down at the expense of others. We’re sorry/not sorry that a tiny population of Jewish people are so vibrant, creative, and successful. We’re sorry/not sorry that Black people continue to make such a powerful positive impact on our culture across every sector. We’re sorry/not sorry for Latino and Asian people who come here for a better life (just as your forefathers did 200 years ago) and take the jobs you don’t want or can’t qualify for. And we’re sorry/not sorry that you lost the Civil War.

But we’re especially sorry that this young nation still has such a long way to go to embody the ideals set forth by our forefathers – that all people are created equal. Thank you for reminding us that some still believe they are more equal than others.   

We are a forgiving lot in Laguna. Though I doubt any of you will be invited for dinner soon, let’s start the healing now and lift you back up with a journey of self-empowerment and personal responsibility.

Though I know it might be hard to leave the warren and take direct sun, come down one Saturday to Main Beach, without the swastikas and arm bands, and witness the rainbow of colors, the panoply of dialects, and the people who look you in the eyes and say hello. You wouldn’t know an LGBTQ from an LMNOP. You’d be swept up in a wave of happiness, of smiles and ice cream and volleyball and basketball and whomping in the waves. Of kayaks on the horizon and lovers on the benches taking it all in. Take a stroll up the newly designed and expertly rendered Forest Promenade and see neighbors and kids running under a canopy of shade trees, with coffee, food carts, street buskers, mid-week farmer’s markets, outdoor movie nights and al fresco dining.

You’ll see the beauty of humanity inside a nurturing envelope called nature. And feel how we are all connected and just one giant matzah ball soup. Come on down to this marvelous place with peace and joy in your heart. Because if you come down with hate, you will be met with a far bigger, stronger, countervailing force called love.

Billy is the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an outdoor adventure company Email [email protected]. 

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