Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Amid Ignorance And Fear, Anti-Semitism Thrives

Anyone who doubts that anti-Semitism still exists should have a look at my e-mail. Not a week goes by in which our show, or me personally, doesn't receive notes from people who use good grammar, have a detailed knowledge of the news, and who are certain that something — or everything — that irritates or scares them in this world traces back to Jews.

Interestingly — or maybe I should just say, appallingly — many of these people take pains to profess that they are not bigots, but distinctly perceptive observers; and if the rest of us don't see the truth as plainly as they do, it's because we're Jews, or in the pay of Jews, or don't realize how everything is run by Jews.

But I think you can learn something from almost anyone. These e-mailers and letter writers have demonstrated something to me: Bigotry is a virus. It doesn't stay in a bottle. It spreads in an atmosphere of ignorance and fear.

I bet that if I saved some of the anti-Semitic e-mail messages I receive to check their names — and many writers unapologetically sign their names — against future e-mails saying something vile about gays or blacks, I'd find more than a few matches.

My wife and I were supposed to be at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the night of the shooting to see Janet Langhart Cohen's play, Anne and Emmett, which imagines a conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till. We cherish our association with the museum. No institution in America is more vigorous about not only making the memory of the Holocaust meaningful, but extending the moral reach of memory to call on people to help stop modern genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere around the world.

I know the news business a little, and I understand why so many reportorial resources must be focused on the life and crimes of the man who has been charged with the killing at the museum. But in the few seconds I have, I'd prefer to talk about a good man: the guard who gave his life.

Stephen Tyrone Johns was 39, and the father of an 11-year-old son. He had a sunny personality, in the memory of his friends, loved funny movies and to make people laugh.

His son will grow up knowing that his father was, to use a word that is so misused to describe athletes or movie stars, a hero. Stephen Tyrone Johns gave his life to save others. In doing so, he reminded us why it is so vital for the place he was protecting to exist, and for people from all over the world to be able to see it safely. And the life of Stephen Johns reminds us that each man or woman on this earth can find a way to make the world better. He did.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small