It’s been in the air for a while now; for years, in fact, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it — until last week. I’d been scouring the past for landmarks, to the McCarthy era and a Europe divided. The prime emotion for so long was fear. Today I realized, it’s hatred.
I’m not talking of the simple, visceral, easily-targeted hatred of Hitler and the Nazis; that didn’t even provoke hatred in the allies so much as a cheerful determination to not stoop to their level. What’s happening today is more subtle, not ‘out there’ any more but an insidious division in our midst.
President Obama is not, as presidents once were, simply a political adversary to the republicans; to many of them he’s a liar, a communist and bent on the destruction of America as they know (or imagine) it.
Obscene comments have flooded lawmakers’ offices since the health care reform bill passed. Callers have made death threats against lawmakers and their children. Windows were shattered at four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas. In Virginia, someone cut a propane line at a house believed to be owned by Rep. Tom Perriello. Sarah Palin’s Twitter page encouraged supporters: “Don’t retreat, instead – reload!” The former vice presidential candidate’s Facebook page also featured a map of the U.S. with circles and crosshairs over twenty districts.
Here in Canada, the rebuffal of Ann Coulter by students of Ottawa University turned quickly into a dialogue of hate about hate. This ‘republican firebrand,’ as the media loves to call her, saw her rejection as an opportunity, and played it to her advantage. “They hate me,” she said ingeniously; even critics fell into line.
Yesterday in Michigan, eight men and a woman were arrested for planning to kill a police officer and then ambush their colleagues at his funeral. They called them members of a Christian militia. Jeez—the things that go on in Christ’s name!
Osama bin Ladin must be delighted with the way things are going in North America.
My concern is to resist the tit-for-tat reactivity that turns disagreement into disgust into fear into my own hatred. Just because I practice mindful reflection doesn’t make me immune. As a tool it can help me resist the worst part of being human and to nurture the best, but only if I have the presence of mind to put it into practice.