EditorialI grew up in a big city.  When I moved to Lansing I encountered things that I had only read about in small towns.  At that time, if you had a 533 number and were calling another 533 number, you could skip dialing the 533 and only dial the other four digits.  I was impressed with that!  And my new neighbors told me they never locked their doors because Lansing was perfectly safe.  I was less impressed, locking my door anyway, but I worried less about forgetting to lock it.  Lansing was the stereotype of an old fashioned, safe, close-knit community.

One of the great things about the national news is that even though it generally reports horrible things, they are always somewhere else.  Murder?  Not here.  Landslides?  California.  Cities with the most violent crimes?  Not here (but wait... I used to live in two of the cities on the top ten cities with the most violent crimes!  Lucky I moved here!).  Hate crimes?  Never in little Lansing.  Unthinkable!  Except they do.  Our Parks & Recreation Department dealt with one Wednesday, when anti-Semitic words and symbols on playground equipment in Ludlowville Park were discovered.

It is easy to think those other places are not as tight-knit and as caring a community as Lansing is and therefore not as good.  Because they are them, which makes them not us.  It not only happened in Lansing, but it happened in Ludlowville, which I have always thought of as a tight-knit community within the already fairly tight-knit town.

It would also be easy to say it was kids who didn't know any better, or just thought they were being cool, but that's the problem with hate crimes.  It is easy to say those things, because it makes the sentiments expressed less threatening to the targets of the nasty language or symbolism to some extent, and definitely to those who are not specifically targeted.  Even if it was true, kids get those attitudes from someone.  And if left unchecked they become adults who hate other people simply because they are different.

The problem is that those sentiments lead to bomb threats at Jewish community centers or actual bombs, or shootings, or beatings... Some people like to think that words don't matter, but they really do.  Effective orators incite actions with their words.  People get hurt or killed as a result.

While the Jewish community isn't a large percentage of the Lansing community, or indeed of the U.S. community (2.2% of the United States population), if you live here you probably know some of the Jews who are your neighbors.  Jews are understandably nervous when they see swastikas  or, as in the case of Wednesday's incident, a defaced Star of David, the six pointed star that is the symbol of Judaism and Israel and some pointed words that shouldn't be repeated.

One 2015 survey found that 24 million, or about 10% of Americans harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.  According to Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents rose 3% in 2015 in the United States up to 941 reported incidents from 912 incidents the previous year.  The ADL reports that such incidents are lower than in the mid- 2000s.  anti-Semitic incidents were down in New York State in 2015, yet there were still more such incidents in New York than any other state, followed by California, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts.

As two of our town leaders expressed this week, it's not just Jews who should feel threatened by this defacement in Ludlowville Park.  Everyone should feel threatened, or at least affronted.  Because what subset of Lansing is next?

Obviously it's not just Jews who are feeling the hate.  Muslims (approximately 1% of the U.S. population) have been feeling a tremendous backlash at least since 9/11 from many people's inability to distinguish between extremists and everybody else.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, more people today in America seem to think it is OK to act out on hatred of people who are different, lumping good and bad Muslims into the bad Muslim box, or Jews into the bad Jew box, or whoever the target happens to be at the moment.

Those folks who are most famous for annihilating six million Jews during World War II weren't that picky -- they actually wiped out 11 million (more by some counts), 1.1 million of them children.  They killed Jehovah's Witnesses, disabled people, gay people and gypsies, among others.  I personally know people from all these groups (except gypsies) right here in Lansing.  The bottom line: hate speech is not a little thing.  It's a big nasty thing that not only hurts people we know, but all of us.  It shouldn't be tolerated.