As a teacher and journalist, I was outraged to read about the high school Nazi-themed party and distasteful joking that followed. However, I believe a cultural atmosphere of hate in some adult circles may be nurturing this situation.
In spring of 2016, I joined a local Meetup group that held weekly events in Newport Beach. On my first day of participation, I was confronted with hate speech by one of the members, who churned out joke after joke against blacks, Jews, LGBTQ members and women, using the worst possible euphemisms for those groups. Other members laughed and added on to the distasteful hate jokes.
I got up and moved to another clump of people, where I introduced myself anew. Minutes later, the hate jokes started anew.
In each circle, 20 or so people heard the jokes, smiled and either added on to them or kept silent, as if the jokes had not been made. While part of me wanted to scream, “You bigots!” the journalist and teacher in me decided to keep quiet, observe and return to learn if this was a case of isolated individuals or a larger culture of hate.
On two subsequent visits, the hate jokes started within five minutes of my arrival. I believed these jokes to be part of a silent initiation process — a way to find out if outrageous hate talk offended the newcomer, and thus, identified him/her as an outsider or an insider. Many of these members are parents with children who do or did attend local schools in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Kids are not born haters. They learn behavior from parents and the community. If we want to rid ourselves of an illness, we should locate the root cause.
I applaud the efforts by Anne Frank’s stepsister and other community groups for presenting student forums and events to educate about hate speech and the Holocaust. But we must address our adult population as well. I sure wish I knew a way to combat groups such as the one described above, that is spreading a culture of hatred.
Typo made me look bad
I was embarrassed to see my letter to the editor printed in the March 10 Daily Pilot with an error that used “tenant” where I had written “tenet.” The subject of the missive was the display of a swastika at a party where Orange County high school students were shown — via social media — rendering a Nazi salute.
The editing error undermines the credibility of the missive and the seriousness of the issue. I do hope that the Daily Pilot exercises more conscientiousness in future.
Make our city streets safer
Sure the posted speed limit is 45 mph, but our streets and thoroughfares are designed like highways that allow drivers to comfortably exceed the posted speed limits without concern or any sense of danger.
When city streets are designed to highways standards, it requires an almost super-human focus by drivers not to go with the flow and speed up. And as many in Huntington Beach already know, even drivers with the best intentions of strictly adhering to the posted speed limit oftentimes catch themselves driving at 50 mph, 55 mph and above. Given the environment, it is simply human nature.
So when a horrific crash occurs and lives are lost and property is damaged, I am saddened but hardly surprised. When the goal of our local streets appears to be solely based on making drivers feel comfortable at highway speeds, something’s gotta give. Highways are highways and they serve a singular purpose. However, the streets of Huntington Beach should and must be something more.
The design of our streets and roadways in Huntington Beach needs to be something more than public space dedicated exclusively to cars and designed primarily as a result of traffic studies, vehicle flow rates and highway design guidelines. This type of limited thinking ignores both the needs and the obvious risks to the public and endangers everyone — including drivers.
Fortunately, improving our streets, roadways and thoroughfares is possible. There are plenty of well-proven guidelines geared specifically to reworking local city streets such that they better serve the entirety of our community. There are straight-forward methods for calming traffic speeds, providing better pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure and developing safer routes to schools.
Recently, Los Angeles adopted a program called Vision Zero LA. This program aims to eliminate all traffic deaths in Los Angeles by 2025 while also promoting more freedom and safety on city streets for everyone.
The residents of Huntington Beach would be well served if our city was to acknowledge the failings of our current local roadway system and embrace reforms similar to Vision Zero LA. Given the number of vehicles on our streets, and the highway speeds at which these vehicles travel, how long can the city of Huntington Beach continue to endanger its residents?
Steven C. Shepherd
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