Hate Has No Place in the Flathead Valley

I will never agree to “live and let live” regarding doctrines and acts of hate in my community

By Michael Merchant

In 1969 while serving with the U.S. Army in Germany I visited Dachau, the Nazi death camp near Munich. I stood in the crematorium and stared into the open ovens. On the walls around me were life-sized photos of that same room when it was filled to a depth of 10 feet with naked corpses. I believe that anyone who expresses the slightest degree of sympathy with Nazi values of white superiority and anti-Semitism is a collaborator in those murders.

In his letter from Birmingham jail (1963), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly … Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

Dachau proves Dr. King’s words. The Nazis kept meticulous records of the 32,000 people who died there. Many were Jews. The rest were political dissidents, prisoners of war, clergy, homosexuals, gypsies, people with disabilities and anyone else the Nazis didn’t like. Dachau shows that when haters have power and permission, they hate whomever they please for the evil delight of it.

I love the Flathead Valley. That is why I live here, and why I will never agree to “live and let live” regarding doctrines and acts of hate in my community. I’ve been to Dachau. I’ve stood in the room where hate leads.

Michael Merchant

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