One of the most notable aspects of the 2016 Presidential election cycle is that so many candidates are actively working to unleash hatred. “Wannabe” Brown Shirts are roughing up unwanted attendees at political rallies. Deranged supporters are starting fires, shooting to kill, and generally creating mayhem aimed at unwanted minorities or those with different political or social views.
Hell, yesterday someone at an intersection flipped me off because I didn’t let him make a left turn ahead of me (that’s illegal here in California), and a shopper in a supermarket railed against some unusually long checkout lines and later walked across the parking lot to his car screaming and cursing about anyone who hadn’t served him fast enough, particularly minorities.
Here in the U.S., there has always been more than enough hatred to go around. We’ve deeply hated those who got to this country after we did (as well as the indigenous nations who got here before we did), those whose sexual preferences differ from ours, those who’ve needed society’s help, those who’ve disagreed with us about large and small policy issues, those who’ve fought against us in wars, even those who’ve rooted for the rival sports team.
But until the past decade or so, much of that hate was squelched. It wasn’t polite to express your hatred openly. Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a clever way to capitalize on some voters’ hatred without requiring them to admit their true feelings. Complaints about “political correctness” were much less about particular issues and much more about regaining the right to hate others.
Now in this election cycle, we find that dozens of candidates have based their candidacies on the size, direction, and vehemence of their hatred for others. And a significant portion of their supporters have taken the cue and unleashed their pent up hatred against whatever pisses them off, scares them shitless, or just varies from their own comfortable way of life.
There are those who say the human nervous system is wired to distrust and even hate strangers from other tribes. It was supposedly a survival mechanism. As a result, it takes active training and practice to overcome our natural inclinations and to give other people a fair chance to live their own lives and hold their own opinions. In my view, we need more of this training, because it helps us advance as a society and allows us to realize more of our human potential, while hatred keeps us chained to our animal natures and effectively stuck in the past.
I’m sure it’s healthier to express one’s hatred rather than bottle it up. As one of Woody Allen’s film characters once expressed the problem of repressed feelings: “I don’t get angry. I grow a tumor instead.”
But a society cannot thrive when a significant portion of its members openly hate another significant portion of their fellows. As Lincoln famously proclaimed: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”