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Jewish World Review Aug. 18, 1999 /6 Elul, 5759

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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They have picked the wrong country --
WHEN BUFORD O. FURROW, after allegedly shooting the children in Los Angeles and murdering a U.S. postal worker, turned himself in to FBI agents, he is reported to have said that he "wanted this to be a wake-up call to America to kill Jews."

Wrong country, Mr. Furrow. The world has known for many centuries that certain people would like nothing more than to kill Jews--and blacks, and other minorities--and many of us are more than aware that no wake-up call is needed to ignite that kind of violence in those who thrive on hatred. For those who would kill people for what they believe in, or what they look like, there is no necessity for setting an alarm clock; the hatred within them never sleeps.

But he's got the wrong country. We may have taken a lot of wrong turns in the United States--we may have gotten close to the point where the "United" sometimes seems in danger of disappearing--but not yet. We're not so far gone that a call like the one he issued is going to be answered.

You want to see the face of the United States? It is the face of the children at the Jewish community center in California who instinctively, after their playmates were gunned down, reached for the hands of the uniformed police officers and trusted those officers to lead them to safety. You want to see the face of the United States? It is the face of those police officers, who go into places where the likes of Buford Furrow spill the blood of innocents, and who do their best to make things secure again.

Furrow--if his confession is true-- took an assault weapon and mowed little children down. That's what passes for courage among men of his kind--he, and men like Benjamin Smith in the Midwest earlier this summer, a person who also claimed to represent the real America, and who demonstrated his bravery by shooting a man in the back as the man walked down a street with his children.

The real America? The courage of convictions? Furrow and his likes can dress up in make-believe Fourth Reich costumes, but they lack a fraction of the courage of those children in California who will this week take a deep breath and return to the community center where this 37-year-old man had shot their little friends. Courage? Those who shoot children, those who murder parents as they walk with their families, claim that their numbers are growing. Maybe so.

But they've picked the wrong country. Do they want to talk about numbers? Here are some numbers for them.

When the most appalling hate crimes in the history of mankind were being carried out in Europe in the 1940s, 16,353,659 Americans served in the U.S. military as this country committed itself to stopping Hitler and what he was doing. Sixteen million Americans. And 407,316 of those Americans gave their lives to stop the hate.

We may have changed a lot, and not always for the good, but we haven't changed enough that the haters will ever begin to define us. The real America? When the death camps in Hitler's Europe were finally liberated, when at last the men, women and children who survived the horror were rescued and set free, whose faces do you think were the first that those grateful souls looked up to see? Whose faces were the faces of their liberators?

They were the faces of soldiers of the Army of the United States. Young men, and their commanding officers, from every part of our nation, who had crossed the Atlantic and risked their lives for this moment. The haters of today--who shoot children, who shoot fathers in the back--would do well to read the eyewitness remembrances of those American liberators--the words of the men who gave up years of their young lives to take a stand against the ultimate hate. Their words of proud, tearful emotion as they were able to march in and set free the innocent victims of hatred.

As those soldiers--old men now-- prepare to leave us, as the World War II generation, day by day, bids their children and grandchildren goodbye, the greatest insult to their memory would be, even for a second, to allow the new haters to think they have a chance of defining what this country means. They've picked the wrong place.

Mr. Furrow--should he end up in prison--is going to quickly find out one aspect of his misjudgment. In prison he will be seen for what he is--not some sort of brave new patriot, but merely a coward who shoots at little boys and girls. And behind prison walls he will learn that even the most hard-core criminals feel only fury for those cowardly enough to attack children. He will be dealt with for what he did.

He won't be the last hater to come along. There will be more bloodshed caused by people like him. There always has been, in this sad old world of ours. But prevail? Wrong country. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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