Hatred – the Path to Power
In the world of politics there are certain politicians who promote hatred as a path to gain or retain power. Whether it’s directed against immigrants, Mexicans, blacks, Muslims or Jews, they spew a common message. Their first step is to emphasize that these people are “The Other.” They look different, their skin color is different, they dress differently, their customs are different. They’re just different from us.
And because of these differences, there is reason to fear them. They’re going to rape and murder our citizens. They’re going to force the United States to adopt their culture. They’re going to steal jobs from Americans. They’re going to improperly receive government benefits. They’re going to vote illegally. They become scapegoats for all that is wrong.
The Cloak of Nationalism
These politicians often disguise their expressions of hatred under the cloak of nationalism. Their country’s culture and interests are “the best,” and they don’t want to dilute them by including “The Other.” The White Supremacist movement in the United States today is a glaring example. Simplistically, this group believes the white race is undeniably superior; they oppose government action that defends the rights of those who do not fit that definition.
Politicians without a moral compass look to them for support, even though they express ideas abhorrent to the country’s ideals. Witness Donald Trump’s reference to those who marched in Charlottesville as including “very fine people on both sides.” Or David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, publicly stating support for Trump.
Hatred cloaked in nationalism is not limited to the United States. Europe is rife with anti-immigrant sentiment, influenced strongly by Islamophobia, and rising anti-Semitism. The U.K. reported an increase of 26% in Islamophobic attacks in 2017. France reported a 74% increase in anti-Semitic attacks while Germany reported a 60% increase in 2018. Many attribute this rise in the physical expression of hatred to the increasing power of right wing nationalist politicians.
Dissatisfied with their plight under liberal democracies, many Western European countries turned to right leaning political parties. Their nationalist policies provided a safe haven to attack “The Other.” Leaders in Poland and Hungary use fear of “The Other” to retain power. Hungary provides a good example of how such policies foster Islamophobia and a unique twist on Hungary’s brand of anti-Semitism.
Nationalism in Hungary
Challenged by neo-Nazis in 2015, Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, began a nationalist, xenophobic and racist campaign. He would be the savior of Christian Europe by stopping the flood of non-Christian migrants to Europe.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, George Soros, a Hungarian-American Jewish investor and philanthropist founded Central European University to champion the principles of democracy and free societies. Orban accused Soros of enflaming this invasion of migrants and of promoting a vision of liberal society that was at variance with the direction Orban was taking the country. So, the Orban government forced the University to close. And this is where the story takes a strange turn.
Despite his anti-Semitic tropes concerning Soros, Orban has been careful to avoid the label of anti-Semite. He has allowed the Jewish community in Bucharest to thrive while maintaining close ties with his ideological ally, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. Thus, when the Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the anti-Semitic, anti-Soros campaign, Netanyahu forced the Ministry to retract the report.
So here was the leader of the Jewish State supporting an anti-Semitic campaign because he believes it is in his political interest to do so. Specifically he considers Soros an enemy “who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.” Sorting out the spin, it means that Netanyahu disagrees with Soros’ ideas about liberal democracy and prefers that of the right wing authoritarian kind.
Dehumanizing the Subjects of Hatred
Spewing hatred of this nature dehumanizes the subjects of that hatred, making it easier to physically harm them without remorse. Hitler understood that lesson well and enticed the German nation into committing the worst holocaust the world has ever witnessed. But one need not refer to the 1930’s to see the process repeating itself. Look at just a few instances in more recent history.
Rwanda: ethnic Hutu extremists slaughtered 800,000 of the Tutsi minority community in 1994.
Paris: Islamic militants attacked a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars in 2015, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.
Myanmar: Buddhist government persecuting the Rohingya Muslims; the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) issued a report in March 2018 indicating 43,000 Rohingya parents have been “reported lost, [and] presumed dead” since August 2017.
New Zealand: just this month, March 2019, an Australian white supremacist, who called Trump a “symbol of white supremacy” and said he was motivated by “far-right extremism he saw in the United States . . .,” attacked two mosques killing 49 people .
Of course, the United States can now count itself among those countries where hatred continues to incite followers to kill: white supremacists attacking black churches and Jewish synagogues; Islamic militants attacking a community center, planting bombs, driving a vehicle into a crowd of people.
Responsibility for Violence
So, who is responsible for all this violence? We can point the finger at politicians who use this hatred to gain a political edge. But that cannot happen unless the hatred has already permeated their supporters. How does that happen? We know that people are not born with a hatred gene. They are taught to hate.
Richard Rogers, the famous lyricist, expressed this in lyrics of a song in the musical South Pacific. Set in the Pacific during World War II, a U.S. marine falls in love with an island girl, but knows he can never bring her back to his world in main line Philadelphia. Rogers sends this message through the song, You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Hatred and American Ideals
And that is really the point. We are not born with hatred. We acquire it as we grow: from our family, our friends, our environment. Yet hatred is so contrary to the ideals expressed in these early American founding documents.
The Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.”
The Need to Speak Out Against Hatred
These ideals are what the United States represents. And that is why it is incumbent upon us all to speak out whenever we encounter the planting of seeds of hatred. In this respect it is important to remember the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany. He was an outspoken foe of Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. After the war, he made this statement about the need to fight back against all forms of hatred.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Democracy is under attack and hatred is one of the weapons used. It is time to speak out and fight back whenever hatred rears its ugly head.