Bigotry and hate are patrolling the streets of Great Neck. This is new, an ugliness out in the open, no longer sub rosa, as though a license to kill with words has been issued to people with a limited vocabulary.
It started with a behind-the-scenes movement to defeat the public school bond vote in February 2017. It continued as advocacy for Pedram Bral for mayor of the Village of Great Neck in June 2017. Now it emerged in, of all places, the annual trustee election at the Great Neck Library in October 2018.
One of the trustee candidates put on the ballot by the library’s Nominating Committee is Mimi Hu, a thoughtful person we would be lucky to welcome to our library board. A few weeks ago another Chinese woman who has let it be known the committee turned her down, began to campaign as a “Write-in” against Mimi. The Write-in claims she is a Christian with “family values” that our library needs.
With the coming of the write-in, the intellectually rigid have declared war on the intellectually flexible. The write-in herself uses the word “battle,” and under her banner she united some people who stalked Mimi this past Sunday at the street fair sponsored by the Village of Great Neck Plaza.
There are videos and eyewitnesses of Mersedeh Rofeim, a woman unknown to Mimi, accosting Mimi on the street calling Mimi a “transgender” and telling Mimi to go back to China. To be clear, a woman with a Middle Eastern accent told the woman with a Far Eastern accent she does not belong here. One might say Rofeim was enjoying the freedoms afforded her by our democracy to speak her mind no matter how bile-filled it is.
As Mimi’s 6-year-old son stood frozen by what he now calls a “hater,” Rofeim turned her back on Mimi and bent over, presenting her backside. Then she turned and gave Mimi the finger.
Mimi was approached a bit earlier in Starbucks by a man who identified himself as Bob Unger. He asked Mimi if she is the candidate for library trustee. He then asked if she thinks it is normal for a man to marry a man. Since gay marriage is legal in New York State, and since gay marriage is not remotely an issue for a library election, Unger had simply stalked a stranger in public, a woman with a small child, who was female, gentle—and alone.
There are four seats to fill on the library board, with one of the candidates on the ballot being Chinese, Mimi Hu. The write-in, herself Chinese, has chosen to run against the only Chinese person on the ballot for trustee. This, in itself, is inexplicable to those of us who are not Chinese. It turns out the write-in is not so much running to be a library trustee; she is running to strike down Mimi’s progressive thoughts.
Other players are interested in this contest, such as Lucy Lu, a real estate contractor who had her lawyer send a threat in a letter to one of Mimi’s supporters. And then there is Rofeim, parading vulgarity with an unprintable caption.
The write-in candidate, according to her published material, has a degree in library science, and yet she has twice evidenced an absence of knowledge about the way libraries function. She introduced her candidacy with a flyer announcing she was holding a two-hour meeting in a specific room of the library at the end of September—even though she had not made a request to the library to use the room, nor had she inquired if the room was available. Her belated request was denied, for the reason any librarian should have already known.
On Oct. 4, the evening of the forum at the library for candidates on the ballot, the write-in appeared in the foyer of the library distributing her flyers to people entering the meeting room. The library director had to be summoned to tell her that her politicking had to be removed from the library. This was the second time in which the write-in demonstrated a disinterest in—or disregard for—our library.
The supporters of the write-in think a free library should not represent freedom, certainly not freedom of thought. Meanwhile, the supporters of the write-in have effectively hijacked the period of time prior to the election during which there could have been a meaningful, relevant conversation about our library.
Vote for Mimi. Hold back the Huns. Barricade the gates to the coming of a Know Nothing movement. Show up and be counted.
—Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar
Writer’s Note: To avoid using the words barbaric and ignorant, which are little better than name calling, instead I paired Hun and Know Nothing.
The Know Nothing was a political party here in the United States in the 19th century that was antagonistic to recent immigrants. The tribal Hun on the steppes of Eurasia in the fifth century were uncivilized.
I am a writer, but more important I am a careful writer.
Please tell anyone who would think otherwise that what has made its way onto our peninsula, into our quiet suburb, is a troubling combination of personal prejudices, sectarian and insular disregard for others, and a self-serving disdain for democratic processes.
In other words, the public behavior manifested in this library election has given a glimpse of what has been percolating for years.
Thank you for letting me know someone questioned the use of the word Hun.