2016-12-14 / Opinion

Hate and Fear – 2 Sides of the Same Coin


People of color have been on the receiving end of extra amounts of hateful language, including actual threats, made by supporters of president-elect Trump in recent weeks. Even being white may not shield those standing for peace in Brunswick where we are hearing jeers and insults from triumphant voters who want to believe that a deeply split electorate endorsed racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

A neighbor of mine received a dozen answering machine messages post-election calling him and all Native people “scum bags” and mentioning one of his daughters by name. Authorities found the caller who confessed saying he had been drinking when he made the calls. When will this Native family and their relations feel safe again?

In retrospect, the election of Donald Trump with his hateful rhetoric against Muslims, women, people of color, and homosexuals is best seen in light of Brexit. White working or unemployed people slipping from middle class to working poor are scared and angry. They are lashing out against the system that has so dimmed their prospects. The British were surprised to wake up the day after a referendum to leave the European Union and find that the stoking of these fears by mass media had affected the vote. Such a vote is an attempt at communicating: Something is wrong here! Pay attention!

A large portion of the electorate in the U.S. did not vote in the presidential election, and the majority of those who did cast a ballot did so for another candidate. But this doesn’t negate the fact that a sizable percentage of voters in the poorest areas of the U.S. voted for the candidate who has claimed he will force all Muslims to register as such. I just signed a petition asking President Obama to dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) — which predominately targeted Muslim immigrants under President Bush — before it can be used as a registry by the incoming administration.

As a history major I always wonder what people understand about the mass murder of Jewish people and others deemed undesirable by Nazis in the 20th century. When you see a photo of water protectors in North Dakota with their number written on their arms by militarized police arresting them for standing their ground, does it call up memories of concentration camp inmates with tattoos? It does for me.

The best part of teaching history is sharing the many, many stories of those who stood up to fear and chose love and solidarity instead. The Danish people employed foot dragging and subterfuge to stall deportment of their Jewish population, allowing time for most to move to safety. The villagers of Chamonix, France hid hundreds of people fleeing the Nazis at great risk to themselves.

Dark times contain within them the possibility of bringing your own glimmer of light out from under cover and shining it for those most in need. That would be us, now. Let it shine.

Lisa Savage is a member of PeaceWorks. She lives in Solon.

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