Superman and heart-shaped balloons at Printemps, Paris.
It's my birthday and beautiful messages and phone calls have been pouring in all day...more thoughtful gestures than for every year I've been alive (and that's saying something)! Thank you; you've made me feel like a Superhero! Thank you for helping make my birthday so special.
And of course tomorrow is a big day that we remember for reasons far too painful. We mourn the great loss of those who tragically died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They were from different countries and different faiths, all victims of a madman's hate.
While clearing out files and bookcases this week, I came across the Southern Poverty Law Center's Community Response Guide "Ten Ways to Fight Hate." As there are a lot of misguided and uninformed people out there - including certain media figures - trying to muddy the waters, I thought we might all benefit from these ideas:
Act. Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance - by the perpetrators, the public and worse, the victims. Decent people must take action. If we don't, hate persists.
Unite. Call a friend or a co-worker. Organize allies from churches, schools, clubs and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition, including children, police and the media. Gather ideas from everyone and get everyone involved.
Support the victims. Hate-crime victims are especially vulnerable, fearful and alone. If you're a victim, report every incident - in detail - and ask for help. If you learn about a hate-crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
Do your homework. An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.
Create an alternative. Find an outlet for anger and frustration and for people's desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.
Speak up. Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate-group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
Lobby leaders. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies in the fight against hate. But some must overcome reluctance - and others, their own prejudices - before they're able to take a stand.
Look long-range. Promote tolerance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your community's comfort zones, so you can learn and live together.
Teach tolerance. Bias is learned early, usually at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Sponsor an "I have a dream" contest in which students envision an ideal community. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate-group propaganda and prejudice.
Dig deeper. Look inside yourself for prejudices and stereotypes. Build your own cultural competency, then keep working to expose discrimination wherever it happens: in housing, employment, education and more.If not us, then who?