Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned last week. He gave in to public pressure after a tape of him using vile and racist language surfaced, then spread like wildfire through social media. We welcome his resignation; we do not celebrate it.

Just as we can’t celebrate the fact that some person or persons spray-painted a campaign sign supporting Rep. Josh Gottheimer with images of swastikas, penises and happy faces along with vulgar language directed at minorities and imploring passers-by to “vote MAGA,” in reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” A Sussex County couple found the defaced sign in their yard on Saturday morning.

Anyone who might construe such disgusting displays and virulent anti-Semitism as “free speech” is sadly mistaken. This is hate speech, pure and simple, and we have seen too much of it lately.

We do hold out hope, though — we must hold out hope — that these incidents, so scarily close together, can serve a greater good, can make all of us tolerant. We can use this moment as a lever to pull us toward our better selves, and a better society.

Listen: Bergen Sheriff Michael Saudino admitted to making homophobic and racist remarks as heard on this recording. Saudino resigned Friday, Sept. 21. North Jersey Record

We cannot let the voices and actions of intolerance and hate win. We must push back at every turn.

If we think Saudino’s racist, homophobic rant was a horrific episode caught in a vacuum, we fool ourselves. The brutal, guttural, almost conversational tone was hard to listen to — as if it were normal, as if it had taken place on a street corner, or in a pool hall, or in a police precinct.

“Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the [expletive] they want, smoke their marijuana, do this, do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops,” Saudino is heard saying on the tape reportedly recorded just after Gov. Phil Murphy’s inauguration earlier this year.

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