I noted the outpouring of fear and hate in response to a museum inviting a speaker from the prominent Middle East news service Al Jazeera to speak in Rockland. The General Henry Knox Museum holds a fundraiser each year to support its work, and since the Arab Spring continues to unfold, they thought Washington bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara would draw a lot of interest.

In 700-plus comments posted to an online article about the event, a large number criticized the museum, which commemorates a Revolutionary war hero, for making an un-American choice of speaker, while a significant number pointed out that freedom of speech and religion were core values of the American revolutionaries.

Then came news that Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian man hopped up on Islamophobic hate speech, had killed nearly 100 innocent people. His rampage reminded us that plenty of terrorists (think Oklahoma City bombing, or Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ attacker) are white racists.

As a student of the Holocaust and other genocides, I have found that hate speech always precedes pogroms and other acts of racist violence. (This is also the case in acts of personal bullying). The rising influence of hateful talk has been steady these past decades in our nation. Media outlets that cater to name calling, slurs and violent language are all around. Beware their influence on the unbalanced minds among us, and on our own youth. Our health as a society is at stake.

Join me in standing up for tolerance and the civil exchange of ideas at 5 p.m. Thursdayin front of the Strand Theater in Rockland. I will face those protesting Foukara with this sign: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” — Thomas Jefferson

Lisa Savage