Standing on a street corner and holding a banner during a busy, early-morning rush hour is a common method of creating visibility for political campaigns.
I am a candidate for the House of Delegates for the 11th District, and in my second run for office. Early on June 18th, my husband, campaign manager and I were standing on a grassy median, across from the Green Spring Station shopping center, holding a banner that said, “Shelly Hettleman, Democrat for Delegate.”
It was about 7:30 a.m. and we chose the intersection of Greenspring Valley and Falls roads because it’s busy, with likely 11th District residents coming from the north and west on their way downtown.
While we regularly receive waves from motorists, and occasional honks and thumbs-ups, most of the time drivers are bleary-eyed and peer at us with mild curiosity.
But on this particular morning, a white man, perhaps in his 30s or 40s and in a well-worn car, slowed down to a stop at the area where Greenspring Valley Road merges right into Falls Road.
He stuck his head out of the driver’s side window and screamed, eyes and neck veins bulging, “Heil Hitler! You don’t represent us! Heil Hitler! You don’t represent us!” about five times.
There was such hatred in the man’s face as he leaned his head out of the window, such venom as he spat those words at us, that I wondered if he was going to get out of his car and come after us.
Fortunately, he drove away. I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t really have time to be afraid, but it was jarring.
I didn’t get a license plate number. I have no idea who this man is, whether he is mentally ill or anything about him. I do wonder what it is that makes him so afraid, for I do believe that so much of the hatred and narrowness we see these days stems from fear.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Others have shared with me their recent experiences that are also disturbing and harrowing. Just last week, a good friend of mine was called names – that this publication would not print — at a nearby grocery store for no reason.
Too many among us are treated terribly with regularity by virtue of the color of our skin, by who we love or by our religion. We are living in a time when children are being separated from their parents, held in cages, and our nation’s history is full of official policies for which we are now ashamed.
Current action — and inaction (remember Charlottesville?) — and rhetoric have lent a platform to hatred and tribalism in a way that this country has not seen for decades. It is not about whether one is a Republican or a Democrat. But as members of a kind, civilized humanity, it is up to us to reject these voices of hate and those who lend them legitimacy.
It is up to us to shine a light on this behavior, name it and ensure that it does not become the standard by which we relate to one another and the world.
On Monday, June 25, Delegates Shelly L. Hettleman and Dana M. Stein will present a “Wave Against Hate!” at 7:30 a.m. They are inviting members of the community to bring homemade signs and participate in a pre-primary sign wave at the corner of Greenspring Valley and Falls roads.
A Democrat and longtime community activist, Shelly L. Hettleman has served as a delegate for the 11th District since 2015 and is running for reelection.