In the days between Christmas and New Year’s, our country suffered a double tragedy: a shooting at a Texas church and, on the seventh night of Hanukkah, a stabbing at a rabbi’s house. Whether fueled by mental illness, irrational anger, pure unadulterated hate or a combination of those things, these attacks capped off a truly hideous year in America: 2019 saw the most mass killings of any year on record, according to a database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
That followed an equally appalling year of hate. In 2018, personal attacks motivated by bias or prejudice saw a 16-year high, according to the FBI, with a surge in violence against Latinos outpacing attacks on Muslims and Arab-Americans.
Also in 2018, there were 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism, according to the enduring Anti-Defamation League. The attack on a Jewish community in Monsey, N.Y., days ago followed a rash of violence against Jews on the streets of New York City.
The rise in hate in America is hard to ignore. It’s also sickening in every sense of the word. It turns the stomach to know white nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry have made such a potent return this decade, well into the 21st century, and it is rotting our country from the inside out.
It’s all too easy to equate the hate with politics, but the unavoidable fact is, politics has become too important in our lives, an organizing principle around which we order our social and cultural identities. Where we sit on the partisan spectrum is increasingly determining our worldviews and our relationships with other people, and that is a corrosive development. It’s also one that doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.
In the wake of the two worst recent hate crimes, I tweeted a message that I hoped would resonate with someone, anyone: a call to focus on combating hate in America without blaming our political foes. It didn’t go well. I got mostly political clap-backs.
Some blamed the political left.
“Ever heard of [Rep. Rashida] Tlaib or [Rep. Ilhan] Omar?”
“…it is driven by the antisemitism [sic] that has become acceptable in the party of Democrats.”
Many blamed the right and Trump.
“Cannot put down our politics while an enabler of white supremacy is in the WH.”
“We have a president who is not only incapable of addressing hate, he fuels it. Start there S.E.”
And more still blamed me, and “the media.” “@CNN spews hate 24/7 at @realDonaldTrump and the Republicans.” “Sadly, S.E., it starts with you and the rest of the media.”
“FOX News is pumping *dis*information into frightened minds daily, and it’s designed to be addictive.”
One person summed up the refusal to disassociate hate from politics the best, or perhaps the worst. “If I ‘put down my politics’ the other side will win. They have to put down their politics, first.”
Inarguably, politics is a part of our hate problem. But just as inarguably, it is not the cause. And I can say with certainty it is definitely not the solution. That will have to come from us — individuals, as citizens and neighbors, if not friends — deciding to tackle this cancer in our homes, our schools and our communities.
We are all, in some way, small or large, responsible for perpetuating a growing culture of hate. It’s a much harder task to look inward than it is to blame our political enemies for all our ills. But until we do, the hate will continue to eat us alive.