We all hear about horrible things being done to people for no reason other than they’re different from other people.  Vandalism, threats, and most horribly violence.  It’s a terrible truth of human nature, people tend to fear what they don’t understand, and fear can cause people to uncharacteristically terrible things.  I read the news online, I watch national and international news shows; these stories are not new to me.  What’s new to me is when it happens in my own backyard.
 
I live in Clifton Park, NY, which is 17 miles from Cohoes, NY.  On May 15, 2007 The Times Union featured the story of Patricia Gardner, Cohoes resident and Wiccan High Priestess.  (you can view the original story here: http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=589490&category=ALBANY&BCCode=&newsdate=5/16/2007)  According to the story, after living in her apartment in Cohoes for a year and a half with no problems, she found graffiti along the side of the house.  Amongst the writings was the Lord’s prayer, descriptions of Gardner as an “evil witch” and a “spook”, and the asking of God to “please move evil away.”  The Times Union explains that the case is under investigation and at this time it has not been labeled a hate crime.
 
Okay, where to start.  Um, why?  Why would someone do that?  Why would someone take the time to do that?  What on Earth does it prove?  Since the story says that Gardner lives in an apartment, she probably doesn’t even own the property that got defaced.  The person, or persons, behind this act not only attacked Gardner but is making her land lord, who I’m guessing would not be viewed as an “evil witch”, pay as well.
 
Obviously I’m preaching to the choir on this one.  I’m 99% sure that my readers all agree that doing something like this just because someone is of a different religion is wrong.  So why am I sharing this at all, I mean, this is just one example of the religious intolerance that exists not just in the United States but the world.  Well, it’s simple.  Patricia Gardner is only 17 miles away.  In just a little over 20 minutes I could be at her door.  I view people all over the world as my neighbor, but in this particular instance, she is literally my neighbor.  I just wanted to take a moment to let my neighbor know that I’m so very sorry she’s had to experience this and to put it simply, that I care.
 
Patricia Gardner was kind enough to issue this statement that I would like to share, “I would just like to say that this incident has us a little worried because we don’t know what else they may do.  If they will sneak around in the dead of night and write on my wall, what else do they have in mind. It also angers me to think that in the twenty first century people are still afraid of us. If they would just talk to us, they would see that we are not anything like they think. We would like to believe that by bringing this out into the open, that who ever did it will realize we are going all the way with this. We will not cower in the corner and wait for them to strike again and if they continue, they will go to jail. Hate crimes are against the law, and we believe that silence is acceptance, and since we do not accept this we will not be silence.”
 
Remember, we really truly are all neighbors.  In honor of Patricia Gardner, lets all take a moment to think about what we appreciate about other religious faiths.  Not sure you can?  Then do all the Patricia Gardners in the world out there a favor and visit www.pluralism.org and www.religioustolerance.org.  Also take a moment to remember one of my favorite pieces of writing of all time, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a
redress of grievances.”  It’s the First Amendment baby, love it!






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