Let’s spare few words for the circulators of the “Mohammed the lost dog” posters in downtown Lewiston. Unless the words are simple, short, contain few syllables and are probably misspelled, it’s likely those folks wouldn’t understand what they say anyway.

The posters are humorous for the “Beavis and Butthead” crowd. They show a basic understanding of photocopier use, and a nostalgia for mid-1980s rock. Perhaps the Recording Industry Association of America should be alerted about potential copyright infringement for the author’s use of “867-5309.”

Nah. The posters don’t warrant this much attention. They should, as some observed, be tossed away and forgotten as a regrettable, juvenile joke. They were offensive, but about as harassing as a brisk wind.

The permanent, important imprint from this incident is the response: a group of civic and faith-based leaders, standing on a frigid sidewalk, sternly and sensibly condemning the posters. There was neither bluster nor braggadocio; just the prevailing sentiment that enough is enough.

It is the right message. Although the display of the posters is being investigated as a potential hate crime, it doesn’t qualify. If the pig’s head and cafeteria ham did not, this poster cannot. It begged for a community response, not an enforcement action by police. Social standards were violated here, not public ordinances.

So society spoke up, in the forms of Rabbi Hillel Katzir and the Rev. Michael Seavey, and Mayor Laurent Gilbert and Sister Claire Lepage. Instead of simply preaching and urging tolerance to their respective secular and nonsecular congregations, these leaders took their message to the street for everybody.

These kinds of measured responses should prove most effective in curtailing displays of intolerance in this community, whether serious or sophomoric, like the posters.

And in doing so, these leaders have challenged the rest of us to be heard. Much is made about Lewiston-Auburn’s reputation; incidents such as the posters serve to sully the cities’ image, and frustrate efforts to improve it, both inside and outside the community.

We know this is a good place to live, work and raise a family. We don’t want scarce incidences of intolerance, perpetrated by an ignorant few, to cast aspersions upon us all. For Lewiston-Auburn to shed the shreds of this negative persona, it starts with people stepping up, and taking action.

It doesn’t have to be bold speeches or grand gestures. A unified front that makes it clear this community will not tolerate, disregard or ignore hateful actions is all that it takes. This is not about changing minds or foisting values or viewpoints upon people who may not want them, or share them.

It is about stopping the close-minded views of a few from defining us all. From the sidewalk outside the Barwaqo Halal Store on Friday, this is what the leaders asked us to do.

We should listen.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.