by Christopher M. Halleron
This morning we’re waking up to a lot of stories about bigotry and racism on display in Hoboken.
With our heated mayoral campaign in its final days, a ghastly flier has appeared—intent on smearing not just one but two candidates. An attack on Councilman Ravi Bhalla was carried out using forged campaign materials from Councilman Michael DeFusco. The Hoboken Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor are currently investigating.
In the digital world, the “October Surprise” tactic needs to be timed a little tighter, and this one hit right at a pivotal moment in the Hoboken campaign. Months of pointed and productive debate about all aspects of running a city are now overshadowed by the specter of xenophobia.
Local, national and even international media outlets are spinning yarns of a small-minded New Jersey backwater—yet anyone who lives here can tell you that Hoboken is a city that bends over backwards to embrace its cultural diversity. A prime example is our city’s Interfaith Memorial Service on September 11, where Hoboken comes together in the shadow of the World Trade Center with religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities to commemorate the lives of 56 residents lost in the 2001 attacks.
I’m not going to pretend that the elements of ignorance don’t exist here in this city. There are individuals who may harbor and even act on misguided prejudices. Fact is, we’re far from a utopia… but we’re even further from the type of environment where a flier reading “Don’t Let TERRORISM Take Over Our Town” would have any sort of direct impact. In a progressive northeast urban liberal enclave, the notion that any candidate would even consider mustering support through xenophobia is beyond comprehension. It simply wouldn’t happen.
So let’s look again at what happened here on Friday…
This was a blatant forgery, intent upon disrupting the democratic process through obfuscation. This is the very thing we’re reading about in the national elections—brought down to scale at the municipal level. It is willful misinformation, it is the proliferation of lies to impact the outcome of an election. It is #FakeNews at its fakest… and it’s spreading like wildfire.
As a local media professional, I’m saddened to see intentional lies dominate the headlines. As a 20-year resident, I’m disgusted to see this sort of tactic so viciously employed in a local election. As someone who has made a career out of highlighting the positive aspects of Hoboken, I’m crestfallen to see all that work smeared by one wanton and deliberate act.
Because what you see in that flier… that’s not Hoboken.
With post-war America starting to slide back into the rut of intolerance, Frank Sinatra starred in a ten-minute short film called The House I Live In, written by Albert Maltz, produced by Frank Ross and Mervyn LeRoy.
In the film, Frank spots a gang of kids chasing a Jewish boy down an alley. Frank intervenes, discusses the diversity in his own life growing up as a kid in Hoboken, and why it is important to accept all Americans, regardless of race, color, creed or lifestyle.
In conclusion, Frank sings “The House I Live In,” which asks the poignant question, “What is America to me?”
This right here… this is Hoboken:
Christopher M. Halleron is the Publisher/Editor of hMAG.
As a columnist and journalist, he has covered various aspects of life here in the ‘greater Hoboken area’ and beyond for the past two decades.
His opinions are his own.