Editorial: Thanks in troubled times

Many words have been expended on social media, and no doubt in private conversations, regarding the “chanting” incident at Wilton High School during a football game on Nov. 11. For the few who are not aware, students — it appears a very small number, perhaps as few as two — chanted “build the wall” during a game against Danbury High School. Minorities make up about 12% of Wilton High School’s population, while they make up more than half Danbury’s student body.

The event has been discussed in school. Wilton High School has issued an apology to both Danbury High School and the Danbury community at large. Perhaps the feeling is Wilton should move on, but this is not an incident we can easily leave in the rearview mirror.

It is important to remember the election of Donald Trump as our next president has left many people experiencing fear and grief. For many, the chant “build the wall” has meaning far beyond building a physical wall between the United States and Mexico. It encompasses antipathy toward minorities based on race, religion and country of origin.

We must take those who spew such pejorative phrases at their word. They mean it. Why else would they say it?

We must treat people who espouse such ideas as adults, and this includes high school students. To do otherwise would mean we don’t take their words, thoughts, and ideas seriously. Just like a lie, repeated over and over and presented as truth, when one or two or three people say something offensive and it is dismissed rather than denounced, then four or five people say it, and soon many, many more people think it is OK and the sentiment grows and grows out of control.

This event took place on school grounds during a school activity, and it is right for teachers and school administrators to use this as a springboard to discussing tolerance, inclusiveness and the right we all have of freedom from persecution.

But this is more than a teachable moment for the schools. This is a teachable moment for parents and even fellow students. Those things we will give thanks for tomorrow — our families, our health, our freedoms, our opportunities — everyone has a right to those no matter their race, faith, or country of origin.

We build walls and fences all the time, and sometimes they are good and necessary, like the fence around a swimming pool or along a highway. But many are harmful, and the most dangerous are the walls we build around our minds and hearts.

So before we pass the turkey, let us open our hearts. Let us give thanks for all those gifts and let us give thanks for our extended family — all peaceful members of the human race.