A Story of Hatred Versus the Heart

by on December 22, 2022 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

Preface by Judi Curry:  In this age of antisemitism, hatred of others and lack of compassion my 25 year old granddaughter – Alice – had an experience that prompted her to write an essay about her experience with a Neo-Nazi.  Although this is not the usual OB Rag fare, I think that the message she wrote about is appropriate for what is going on in our country today.  There is always hope that things will change, and although she received threats from the friends of “Fred”, she kept her composure and helped him see that there was another way of approaching others.  I think the message is appropriate at this time of year.

By Alice

Something I’ve heard many people say is that “Love is Love” and I think it’s a really beautiful message. It would be much more persuasive to the people who need to hear it if it wasn’t said as an accusation. That’s something I’ve noticed over the last few years. There are so many beautiful messages out there that preach love and acceptance, but they’re often preached in such angry hateful ways. I always feel like I need to preface this conversation with stating that I agree – love is love, people are people and we are all stuck together on this big happy planet so we would do our best to get along. And, in my opinion, getting along begins with meeting people with where they are at, even if where they are isn’t where I want to be.

I’ll tell you a true story. I am Jewish. Before this experience I used to say that I was “Jew-ish” because I’m genetically Jewish but I wasn’t raised that way so I’m not religiously Jewish. Most people don’t realize that Judaism is both a race AND a religion, so you can be one without the other. Ironically, you want to know who does seem to grasp this concept? Nazis. You want to know how I know that? I’ve met some. I actually dated one briefly. And you want to know my favorite part of this story? He isn’t one anymore.

We met at work. We both worked graveyard shift and he was one of the first people who was nice to me.  I wanted to make friends and I asked if he wanted to get a drink after we got off shift sometime that week. I should mention that I don’t LOOK Jewish. During the holocaust I might have been considered Arian, and now that I dye my hair red people think I’m Irish so… I am even less Jewish looking.

So this guy I met at work, lets call him Fred, and I exchanged schedules and coincidentally happened to have the same days off- Sunday/Monday.

Side note: Let’s say for a normal person’s work schedule they get off work at like 6pm and then might decide to meet up for drinks later around 9pm.  That’s reasonable, right? Remember that we worked graveyard shift so we both got off work around 6am. At 10am on Sunday morning, the bartender rolls up to open up the bar and finds us literally waiting outside like a couple of godless alcoholics. And the 2 of us had fun. We both had dark senses of humor and we had a lot of fun together. By the time either of us realized that the other was “The Enemy” we were already friends, which didn’t matter much for me, but for him it was somewhat world breaking and caused a lot of internal conflict.

He grew up in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. People are products of their environment and his parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, etc.  they all taught him that “Jews are bad”. He grew up with this mentality without getting exposure to anything else, and by the time he did start meeting people who didn’t agree with the “lifestyle” that he had been raised with, he was old enough for people to think it was okay to cuss him out.

“F*** You! You racist POS! Trash! You should die!”

He once told me that the last Jew he met before me beat the shit out of him. And he said it super flippantly like ‘That’s just the way the things are. That’s the way Jews are.’

It created a cycle. He was raised with this lifestyle that “these people are bad”; people would find out about the lifestyle and react… badly… which confirmed the belief that “these people are bad, because they react badly” and the cycle continues to perpetuate itself. So when I broke the cycle by becoming a good person before any assumptions could be instilled it caused him a lot of moral discomfort as his entire lifestyle was threatened. He found out I was Jewish before I found out he was a neo-nazi because I made a joke over text about being a Jew, and when I found out he clearly was trying to provoke me into flipping out on him and matching the stereotype that his entire lifestyle was based around. We were both really drunk at that point, and I remember making the decision to refuse to be what he expected me to be. If Fred expected me to conform to his boring outdated mindset of “we have to be enemies because that’s just the way it is” then he was going to have to be one sided enemies with me, because I’m going to be his best f**king friend from this day forwards. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and kill them with kindness.

You only burn bridges with hatred and anger, but can sometimes build bridges with kindness. If you don’t give someone the opportunity to change, why would they?

No one had ever given Fred a chance to be something different. By 22 years old, he was already doomed to be a “bad person” for the rest of his life. People go where the love is, and the people screaming “we should all love and be kind to each other, you racist POS” were offering significantly less love than the friends and family with whom he had grown up with. So I broke the cycle. I gave him a chance to see something different, and I gave him the opportunity to be something different. I refused to get angry. I listened to him, and I would set my boundaries and disagree with him but I made sure to never tell him what he should or shouldn’t do. I did my best to never make him feel defensive or badly in my presence. I made it clear that I wasn’t going to judge him or guilt trip him for his past. If he made me uncomfortable I’d excuse myself or I’d request that certain topics not be made light of in my presence, but something I noticed about Fred right away is that he was secretly always a good person. Despite all the moral confliction, he didn’t like hearing that something he had done made me feel uncomfortable and I never had to tell him not to do something around me more than once. He just had never been given the chance to be anything else.

His progress wasn’t always a straight line by any means. At one point I had moved away for a little bit and his old friends swooped in to remind him of all the harsh “truths” that I was making him forget and he ended up blocking me. Then he ended up drunk texting me a couple months later and I convinced him to call me sober the next day, where I proceeded to cuss him out with facts to set him straight.

“They pointed out that you’re the Enemy, and you infiltrated my trust!”

“You knew I was a Jew before I knew you were a Neo-Nazi, WHO INFILTRATED WHO HERE?”

He never tried to cut me off like that again :)

He would say that I was an anomaly. The Jew Who Was Nice. I would say he had never been given a chance before, and to try to be more patient. He would complain about having to train new coworkers who he didn’t think he would get along with due to their ethnicities and I would fire back at him “well you get along with me, so why not give them a chance?” and when he would say I was an Anomaly I would tell him “If there’s one exception there could always be more. What’s the harm in waiting to see before you pass judgment?”

Eventually he got to this very uncomfortable point where he realized that he had changed too much to be comfortable around the friends and family he had always loved and grown up with. So he knew that he had to either go back to living a life where he hates everyone but the people he grew up with, or he would have to move on with his life and actually move, because the way things were was no longer sustainable.

It took him a long time to save up money, but last month he told me he had finally set a date for him to get the H out of dodge. I am so incredibly proud and happy for him and all of the progress he has made. It only took one small exception to break through an entire life of hate. One exception to the rule. One Anomaly. One person, and it left a window of opportunity for change.

I never told him what he should or should not do, I was just kind and patient and a good friend. I actually made a point of telling him that I would try to never tell him who he should or should not be, because I know that people are always trying to tell him who he should be, whether it’s his childhood friends and family or new friends, coworkers, complete strangers, etc. He’s the only one who can decide who he wants to be. And in the end, Fred chose to be someone who doesn’t live a life revolving around anger, someone who could be friends with people like me without guilt, someone who he’s actually proud of being.

I have been literally screamed at when I share this story. I have been told that I am a racist coddler who is no better than the Nazi’s who once hunted my people, doomed to go to hell for tolerating such despicable human beings. But it worked, did it not? By going into this conversation with so much unbelievable rage, all they were doing was making the problem more hostile. By thinking without a doubt they were right, people can’t change, anyone who has a background they don’t agree with is doomed to be a bad person for the rest of their lives… all they were doing was alienating both sides even further. I made a Nazi no longer be a Nazi, what have they done to help alleviate racism?

“You’re wrong, your way of life is wrong, the morals you’ve grown up with are wrong, you are a bad person and always will be, there are so many materials in the media and resources and if you haven’t decided to change yet then you should go to hell, end of conversation.” Okay sure, there are a lot of resources and media coverage, but that’s not enough. Treating someone with open hostility isn’t exactly going to endear them to your cause, and telling them they’re destined to be a bad person forever isn’t offering motivation to change. Between someone saying “I don’t agree with you, but I see you as a fellow human being and I’m willing to have a conversation and listen to what you have to say” and someone saying “You’re a monster, if you don’t agree with me you’re going to hell” which one would be more effective in making you want to hear others points of view? Would you rather stick with the people offering you love and acceptance or change your entire lifestyle for people who have treated you with disdain?

Not everyone will be willing to change. I gave everyone in Fred’s circle the same kindness and offer of friendship. Some still will check in with me every now and then and see how I’m doing, and I’m always really happy to hear from them. It’s super inspiring to me that I helped bring people a new perspective, whether they view me as The Anomaly or not. Any amount of change is progress, even the smallest shift in perspective can lead to something more. Some of the others always seemed uncomfortable around me, while there were one or two who still treat me with open hostility. I always make a point of giving them my most cheerful grin and enthusiastic hello! I refused to get angry. No matter what they say to me or how much they try to provoke, the most I will do is respectfully disagree. I will not be the stereotype they use to perpetuate their hatred.

Sarah Silverman has spoken of her friend, Christian Piccolini, who used to be a Nazi sect leader and has since broken away and dedicated a large portion of his life to helping people get out of hate groups. He says that the two main things that help empower hate groups are Silence and Violence. By ignoring the problem it will not go away and the hate groups can thrive, but by reacting violently they are being given fuel to drive their hatred. “We are the victims, they are trying to silence us, look at how they are treating us. At best, they are no better than we are.”

You will ALWAYS burn bridges with anger. With hatred. With prejudice and self righteousness.  Even when you know what the right thing to do is, going into a situation without even attempting to understand the other person’s point of view will only alienate them and build more animosity on both sides. A certain amount of acceptance and understanding needs to be afforded to every person you see and interact with, regardless of differing opinions and backgrounds… or nothing will ever change.

You can sometimes build bridges with kindness and patience and understanding. Love is Love. Who are we to decide who does and does not deserve love in this life? Ultimately, love is what builds bridges between people. Its what makes people want to connect with and understand each other. Its how compromises are formed with enthusiasm instead of resentment. Patience, kindness, and love. Everyone deserves it, and everyone needs to be afforded those courtesies if anything is ever to change and move forward.

If you don’t give someone the opportunity to change, why would they?


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

judi December 22, 2022 at 2:36 pm

The thing that scares me the most about this is the threats Alice has received from Fred’s previous friends.


Stan Levin December 22, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Thank you, Alice
Thank you, Judi
This is wonderful reading!


Alice December 22, 2022 at 5:14 pm

I didnt feel comfort submitting this article without Freds approval, and after I read it to him he was quiet for a long time. I asked if it was okay and he said he just needed a moment to reflect on how much things had changed over the last few years and since he met me. He was honored with how I described everything that happened, and loved the article over all. He was actually the one who suggested the name for this article :)


Chris December 23, 2022 at 9:15 am

I’m not Jewish so this is sort of an outsider perspective. I gotta say you handle this situation with a tremendous amount of understanding and willingness to find common ground with those who would oppress you. Back in my punk days (will still a punk at heart) I was at a Fear show (80/81), and another attendee grabbed a kid sporting a swastika and basically beat him to the point of leaving him unconscious and bleeding from his skull. Not sure of full outcome but the show was shut down and the cops arrested a few people.
In the mid 90s (I was in the Navy), a Jewish shipmate pushed a fellow black crew member down a ladder well for being fan of Louis Farrakan. Long story short, both those individuals were given bad conduct discharges.
About 15 years ago a Jewish neighbor of ours was arrested for throwing hot coffee in the face of someone she overheard speaking negatively of Israel.
All of these people are good human beings but have some violent tendencies.


Frank J December 23, 2022 at 9:58 am

Tis the season to give thanks. Thanks.


Joni Halpern December 23, 2022 at 4:40 pm

How unusual to be convinced at age 25 of the power of one’s own goodness and to persist in intractable decency until it causes the crust of prejudice to crack, letting the light into someone’s dark and exclusionary world. And then to understand that even if the light is insufficient to change someone’s perspective at the time it enters, it still prepares the ground for later illumination — well, that’s true wisdom in someone so young. It was wonderful to read this piece and know that Alice is one of the persons who will be shaping the future of this country and our world. Thank you.


Chris December 24, 2022 at 8:59 am

Kind of off topic but this is a good clip that shows there IS in fact a ”
both sides do it” mentality among various news media sources AND the public at large:


Slimmer Tomcat December 31, 2022 at 7:47 pm

For me growing up, I was taught intolerance. There was definitely racist beliefs. It was a very abusive environment. At 17 i started dating a “non white” and was basically disowned by a majority of the family. A few of my cousins have married “non white” and are STILL talked about like they committed an “offense”.
For me i know that change only comes from within myself. Just short of 20 years ago I decided i wanted to be the kind of man I wanted my son to be. I quit drinking and began to maker changes in my life. I do my best to treat others with respect.
I have distanced myself from my entire family over the years. The people I surround myself with are all decent people with many different beliefs and opinions.
I would like to close by saying that I am part of an online community with Alice and she asked me to read this. I deeply respect and admire her. I am grateful to have met her and that she has shared this with me.


Judi January 1, 2023 at 5:31 pm

Thank you for sharing this with us


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