Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 3:26 am | Fair 63º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Let Peace and Tolerance Begin with You in the New Year

Now that the holiday hype has peaked or at least plateaued, we can strip away the glittery paper, mute the jingle bells, switch off the flashing lights and examine what’s beneath the overdone celebrations. What is left without the hype? I came upon a pamphlet this season that I believe conveys the true message of the holiday and how we can implement it in the new year.

The pamphlet describes a strategy of seeking justice, teaching tolerance and fighting hate. The goal of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which publishes it, is to combat hate crimes and extremists. Its programs target each of the three points.

The SPLC seeks justice by helping victims of racist violence sue in civil court. Its work has brought down some of the nation’s largest white supremacist hate groups by helping victims of racist violence sue in civil court. The judgments, while not large, are often enough to put them out of business.

As individuals, we can further the cause of justice by opening our eyes to the ways that the disempowered among us are oppressed in everyday life. From women and girls around the world to blacks in the United States, Jews and Christians in the Middle East, and Palestinians in Israel/Palestine, many seek a fair shake.

As the SPLC’s brochure reminds us, “Impressionable children are constantly exposed to bigotry and hate — at school, in the media, and sometimes at home.” Its Teaching Tolerance program of lesson plans, films and so forth helps schoolchildren learn to appreciate diversity. This in turn provides a safer and happier learning environment for all. As individuals and groups we can check out these materials (by clicking here) and bring them in our synagogues, churches, mosques and children’s classrooms.

There are 939 active hate groups in the United States, according to the brochure. These include 191 anti-LGBT and others, 163 Ku Klux Klans and 143 Neo-Nazi groups. Extremist groups reached relative lows during the George W. Bush administration — between 130 and 160 organizations — but have increased by more than 600 percent in President Barack Obama's years. The SPLC’s role in fighting hate is to monitor these groups and expose their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public.

As individuals we can refuse to “go along” when groups or individuals are disparaged. You don’t have to be accusatory toward the offender. Sometimes a quiet, “That’s not really funny,” can be reflective and thus a more effective weapon.

Naturally, these practices are more easily preached about than implemented. Parker Palmer gives justification for trying in his book The Active Life: “Action, like a sacrament, is the visible form of an invisible spirit, an outward manifestation of an inward power. But as we act, we not only express what is in us and help give shape to the world. We also receive what is outside us, and we reshape our inner selves. When we act, the world act back and we and the world are do-created.”

As you finish off your latkes or pumpkin pies, or prepare for Mohammad’s birthday next week, whether you celebrate all religions or no religions, think about 2015 as the year you move further into practicing justice, teaching tolerance and fighting hate. Let peace begin with your life and your communities of family, friends and work.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor ( and a freelance writer ( Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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