Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Viewing Hate from the Receiving End (Updated)

I originally posted this a week after the election in November 2016. I'm reposting now because of the Red Hen story.

Have you been the victim of a hate crime? Have you ever really experienced true hatred before? Hate is different from anger because it's irrational.  You can be angry that someone wronged you, but it would be irrational to hate whatever race or ethnicity that person belongs to because of that incident.  Or maybe you were never even wronged by an individual within the group you hate. You just "know" that they are the reason things aren't perfectly rosy around you. Experiencing hate firsthand is an indescribable feeling. You are left confused, angry, and saddened all at once. While I was a graduate student in upstate New York in 2006, a restaurant refused my partner and I service because we were an interracial couple.  Racism was one of those things that you only read about, but not really experience when you aren't black.  Yet, there it was in all of its glory just three hours west of New York City.

Lunch Counter Protesters in the 1960s

In 1991, an individual set my synagogue on fire. As a 10-year old, it was the first time I had experienced hate firsthand. Of course as a Jew, we learn about 3,200 year old Egyptian enslavement, as well as Babylonian, Persian, and Roman persecution. Most Jews probably remember learning about the 525 year old Spanish Inquisition and pogroms in Europe during the "Age of Enlightenment."  And all can probably cite how many Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany and her allies in the 1930s and 1940s.

But it's hard to really know hate until you are a target.  And while my synagogue burning down was the first time I experienced hate, I first became a target of hate in 1994 when I was in 8th grade.  I attended a typical small public suburban school much like students attend anywhere in the United States.  Mine happened to have just been named to the prestigious Federal Blue Ribbon list. Early that Spring semester I was handed a note in class (note to Millennials, this was the 20th Century's version of texting) with a crude sketch of Hitler and a box-form swastika.  A week later, my locker was vandalized with three more swastikas drawn at eye level.  My school launched a campaign to bring in a local holocaust survivor and added content to its European History curriculum.  The culprit turned himself in, apologized to me and the rest of the school and pled ignorance.  For the longest time, even as I accepted his apology, I didn't fully trust his story of ignorance. After all, I was only a few years removed from the incident at my synagogue.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, I, like most of you, did not know the first thing about different forms of the swastika (did you click that last link?). As it turns out though, with the emergence of the alt-right, we have had to deal with a lot more swastikas since President Obama was elected.  And their swastikas are different from the ones that were drawn at my school in the early 1990s.  The Nazi Swastika is drawn at a 45 degree angle. The swastikas at my school were of the garden variety found everywhere in the world up until World War II.  A real anti-Semite would probably know the difference and would have probably drawn the one that reflects hatred.  But the average American? Probably not.

Neo-Nazis Marching in Charlottesville, VA in 2017

My second point is that with the the tightening linkages between the alt-Right and the incoming Trump Administration via its chief strategist Steve Bannon, neo-Nazis have suddenly become empowered  and legitimized. So much so that they are enboldened to engage in the same type of behavior that the original Nazis engaged in when they took power.  Take a look at the swastika graffiti in North Carolina. That's no garden-variety swastika. Many believe it to have been an inside-job. But whether it was or wasn't, it is still part of the mainstreaming of hate that has been occurring at an accelerated pace over the last 18 months.

The hate I have seen this year is unparalleled by any I have seen in my lifetime. And Trump still hasn't even taken office yet.

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