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by Abigail Van Buren

Witness Deplores Bigotry Disguised as Patriotism

DEAR ABBY: I recently witnessed something outside the local Kmart that left me livid. A man was speaking to a young lady in a foreign language, when all of a sudden, another man who appeared to be in his 60s began to chastise them for not speaking English. His exact words were: "What the hell is the matter with you? This is America. People speak English here!" He stormed off when I stepped in and pointed out that HIS ancestors weren't born here, and they probably didn't speak English, either.

When I ride the train to work, I see people with Middle Eastern backgrounds get dirty looks from other passengers. Where exactly is this "newfound patriotism" I keep hearing about? All I see are people using terrorism as an excuse to act like bigots.

Patriotism isn't slapping an American flag on your car. It's remembering the principles this country was built on. THAT is how you honor the people who died protecting our freedom, not by infringing on the rights of people who aren't exactly the same as you. -- A DISILLUSIONED AMERICAN

DEAR DISILLUSIONED: What happened in front of Kmart was a textbook example of xenophobia, which Webster's defines as "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign." Unless the person who did the "chastising" was a part of the conversation, he was rude, aggressive, and a mile out of line.

With the recent war on terrorism and fear of terrorist activity from the Middle East, there have been incidents of hostility aimed at people from Middle Eastern backgrounds and those who resemble them. With that in mind, it's important to remember that no one can tell by looking what is going on in other people's hearts. It is quite likely they are American-born or naturalized citizens, and as fervently patriotic as those of us who have been here for generations.