Editorial: Take Northampton’s Pledge for Human Dignity

During now-President Donald Trump’s hateful and divisive campaign, Northampton’s Human Rights Commission noted anecdotally how even in this Western Massachusetts community, there seemed to be an increase in racism, sexism, and anti-semitism, spurred on by Trump’s nationalistic and bullying rhetoric.

Now, nearly one year into Trump’s hateful and divisive presidency, the commission is launching a campaign to bring people together and create community around preventing hateful acts.

The commission’s dignity campaign asks Northamptonites to sign the following pledge:

“As a member of the Northampton community, I acknowledge that bias incidents and acts of hate destroy the fabric of our community, threaten the personal and collective safety of residents and visitors to our city, and can escalate into criminal activity. I pledge to support the human dignity of all persons and a civil Northampton by refraining from disparaging other people based on who they are, and by attending to those who are the targets of such acts. I join this community effort to neutralize bigotry and support people who are marginalized and disenfranchised.”

Just typing that out made me feel good, but the act of carrying it out is something to which I hope the whole city, and members of other communities who wish to join, can agree to commit.

As the Trump administration and its lackey Republican arms in Congress have shown, tax cuts for the rich at the expense of everyone else are more important than anything else. Right after that priority, however, is actively creating laws that exclude people based on their nationality, religion, skin color, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Local communities and activist groups creating grassroots movements of acceptance are the best chance to counteract (or #resist in social media parlance) what we are seeing at the federal level — a Muslim ban, a transgender military ban, attacks on access to contraceptives, and a president who can’t resist retweeting white nationalist videos.

Karen Bellavance-Grace, chairwoman of Northampton’s Human Rights Commission, said her commission is well-poised to create a push for acceptance.

“We hope that conversations will begin in small ways and large ways,” she said. “Signing the pledge is a symbolic act. We don’t have enforcement or legal authority, but we hope to demonstrate there is the desire in the community, acknowledge our role in the current climate and to take some action to move the pendulum a little farther to a more safe and welcoming space for all people.”

The campaign’s start and end dates are both auspicious ones with regards to human rights.

It kicks off this weekend — Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. at Northampton’s City Hall. That date coincides with the 69th anniversary of the U.N.’s General Assembly adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Copies of the pledge will be circulated to churches, schools, businesses, and other areas through Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.

The pledge is also online.

Rosenberg’s ‘Most  Difficult Time’

State politics last week exploded with allegations in the Boston Globe that Senate President (and Amherst resident) Stanley Rosenberg’s husband Bryon Hefner initiated acts of sexual abuse as well as claimed to have influence in state Senate business — even after Rosenberg claimed he would be creating a “firewall” between his personal and political lives.

In his statement on the day the story was published (he did not answer questions), he called this “the most difficult time in my political life, and in my personal life.” Be that as it may, the charges against Hefner — grabbing several men’s genitals, kissing one against his will, and threatening them politically — are extremely severe.

While the Globe story emphasized that it found no evidence Rosenberg was aware of the incidents when they were happening, he is aware now, and his next steps — and an investigation that we all should demand be completely independent of state Senate influence — will determine if he should be allowed to stay in office.

If that investigation finds that Hefner has had influence in Senate decisions, I don’t see any way that Rosenberg can stay on.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@valleyadvocate.com.

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