The Price of Hatred

It+is+the+duty+of+the+legislature+to+ensure+that+wealth+%28and+income%2C+by+default%29+is+not+concentrated+in+the+hands+of+a+powerful+few%2C+because+to+do+so+is+to+begin+destroying+the+fabric+of+America.
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The Price of Hatred

It is the duty of the legislature to ensure that wealth (and income, by default) is not concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, because to do so is to begin destroying the fabric of America.

It is the duty of the legislature to ensure that wealth (and income, by default) is not concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, because to do so is to begin destroying the fabric of America.

graphic by Alex Flagg

It is the duty of the legislature to ensure that wealth (and income, by default) is not concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, because to do so is to begin destroying the fabric of America.

graphic by Alex Flagg

graphic by Alex Flagg

It is the duty of the legislature to ensure that wealth (and income, by default) is not concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, because to do so is to begin destroying the fabric of America.

Roshie Xing, Contributing Author

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I was waiting at Duquesne for my flute lesson to begin when I received the alert about the senseless shooting, which killed 11 people and wounded multiple others, that occurred this weekend at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

But in that instant, as I was processing the attack, I was transported back to my fifth grade self, huddled on a cafeteria bench, trying to make myself as small as possible, too scared to even breathe. I remembered the pacing teachers, talking in that hushed voice adults use to not frighten children that never works. I remembered the unnatural stillness of a school full of normally antsy children and the overwhelming fear from not knowing. Not knowing that Virginia Tech, five years healing from a deadly massacre, had suffered another school shooting. Not knowing that the shooter was walking the same paths that I skipped on during brisk autumn days, around the same serene pond I loved to glide leaves on. Not knowing that my parents and friends’ parents were in danger. Not knowing that the shooter was a mere mile from my little brother’s on campus daycare, a building with brightly covered walls filled with giddy toddlers. At that age, I was incognizant of the fact that this sort of fear would become a constancy in the years to come.

It is utterly unfathomable how those in power are allowed in one instant to insinuate resentment and stoke hatred and then call for civility in another, professing innocence and confusion of violence that occurs.”

I could speak of mass shootings and how what research there is overwhelmingly states that common sense gun regulations do prevent gun violence. How gun violence disproportionately affects women, young people, and people of color; how those who commit mass shootings often have a history of domestic abuse or mistreatment of women; and how the majority of gun violence affecting youth is due to improper safety measures and appalling easy access to weapons of mass destruction. How there were multiple armed police officers responding to this weekend’s shooting that still failed to instantaneously subdue the perpetrator (and armed guards at most all American mass shootings in recent history) because the reductionist view that a “good guy with a gun” will miraculously stop a mass shooting is ridiculously simplistic. Police officers go through extensive training to properly respond to charged situations and maintain a semblance of calm; unless all gun owning civilians go through this training in a militia-like fashion, adding more weapons to the equation would only worsen it. But today, in light of the torrent of hate crimes that has occurred in the past few years, a more apropos subject may be political violence.

We have just passed the third anniversary of the massacre at the predominantly black Emanuel AME church. Two days ago, a white man killed two black men at a Kentucky Kroger before sparing another white man because “whites don’t kill whites.” In the past week, a man attempted to assassinate prominent leaders of the opposition party in America and others who spoke out against the administration. The DHS secretary is discussing whether or not she will order Border Patrol agents to gun down Latin American asylum seekers. Two weeks ago, a group of neo-Nazi “Proud Boys” (not men) were filmed attacking anti-fascist protesters after their leader, Gavin McInnes, had been a guest speaker at the headquarters of the New York State Republican party. In Miami, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi was heckled and cursed at by a group organized by a local Republican party chapter in conjunction with more Proud Boys whose leaders, in the same breath, decried Democratic “mobs.” Last year, a man shot two Indian men in Kansas who he believed to be Iranian, yelling “go back to your own country”. And who can forget the chilling image of the mob that swarmed Charlottesville, where for an instant, the veneer of blindness was pushed aside to expose the darkness of a group reveling in their racism and anti-Semitism? Since the 2016 election, hate crimes have dramatically escalated, reaching the highest level in more than a decade. Between 2016 and 2017, acts of anti-Semitic violence increased 57%. We live in an age where prejudice and bigotry need no longer be masked and more importantly, where political violence has become accepted and made partisan.

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security released an internal report warning of domestic right-wing extremism. This was immediately taken by conservatives as an attempt by the Obama administration to suppress their voices, and it was itself suppressed. This blatant attempt at ignoring reality, much like climate change denial, has gravely limited our ability to deal with such violence. I attempt to not indulge in false equivalencies, but I will admit that left-wing extremism exists, with James Hodgkinson and Floyd Corkin coming to mind. But since 1992, the libertarian Cato Institute has found that right-wing domestic terrorists (although there is no consensus on what constitutes a “domestic terrorist”) have killed more than 10 times as many as their left-wing counterparts. These extremists include Jim Adkisson (1/2009, TN Unitarian Church shooter, author of a manifesto urging violence against liberals), Richard Poplawski (4/2009, Pittsburgh, feared plot by President Obama to take his guns), Elliot Rodger (5/14, Santa Barbara, “incel” misogynist), Jeremy Christian (6/2017, Portland OR, harassed two Muslim women on a train and stabbed men that intervened), and James Fields Jr. (8/2018, white supremacist, murdered Heather Heyer at Charlottesville), not to mention those who open fire in abortion clinics and murder doctors yet are still praised as heroes.

The root of these acts of violence is in the perpetrators themselves, but they were also built up in a toxic culture that, from the top, condoned and even encouraged them. We have seen a growing faction of minds offering up vulnerable groups as targets, calling political opponents enemies of the country, and advocating for reactionary tactics before refusing to adequately denounce the violence that inevitably occurs. They did not necessarily pull the trigger, but they offered a home for hatred to fester and erupt. In 2016, President Trump said that Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service should stop protecting her and that the “2nd Amendment” people should do something about her. Mainstream conservatives from Candace Owens to Lou Dobbs to Laura Ingraham to even the president have insinuated that the bombs sent to Democratic leaders were an attempt to boost Democrats during the midterms and were fake. The day before calling for political civility, Ted Cruz “joked” about jailing his opponent Beto O’Rourke in the same cell as Hillary Clinton. Within hours of attacking Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema as a “Nancy Pelosi wacko,” President Trump called the Tree of Life shooter a “wacko” as well, insinuating some sort of equivalence between the two. Rep. Steve King, who meets with Holocaust deniers and retweets white supremacists, is still on multiple House committees of power. Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy posted (and deleted) a tweet accusing three prominent Democratic Jews–George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer–of paying for the migrant “caravan” approaching the border hours after Soros was sent a bomb. The head of the Judicial Watch, one of the greatest backers of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said Saturday night that the caravan was being funded by the “Soros-occupied State Department.” The gunman at the Tree of Life synagogue was a man who, based on social media associated to his name, believed that the president was controlled by Jewish “globalists” and that there were Middle Eastern terrorists in the migrant caravan that were paid by Jews to infiltrate America. After posting this last outburst of conspiratorial rage, he then went to kill a synagogue of Jewish worshipers.

America does not belong to bomb throwers. It does not belong to shooters or torch bearers. It does not belong to those who peddle fear and hatred and prejudice, who encourage the stifling mindset of ‘us vs. them.’”

Today, American democracy is threatened in multiple ways but especially by bigots who turn their hatred into violent acts and the people and institutions who sustain them. It is utterly unfathomable how those in power are allowed in one instant to insinuate resentment and stoke hatred and then call for civility in another, professing innocence and confusion of violence that occurs. Call a man a beast, use coded language to dehumanize him, and someone will believe those words. Someone will act against him because he is no longer viewed as human. Much has been made of the oft-mocked “PC” culture that we live in today. Certain phrases have become unacceptable, so we’ll mock the social justice warriors and PC police for going too far, for triggering snowflakes. But maybe it’s because those phrases, carelessly thrown around, reinforce bigotry and remind groups that society doesn’t care about them. Maybe it’s because words are powerful and dangerous, because mocking the Trail of Tears erases the centuries of persecution Native Americans faced, because reflexively criticizing the way girls dress reinforces toxic rape culture, and because normalizing blackface ignores its roots in white supremacy.

To close, a peaceful, democratic society rests upon the tolerance of opposing ideas, upon the understanding that we may never convert others to our world view, but that theirs’ is valid nonetheless. It rests upon debate, not violence; it rests upon acceptance of difference in a shared world. What happened this weekend was a terrible, senseless tragedy, a case in which Americans practicing their religion in peace were murdered simply by virtue of their beliefs. But it was also one more incident in a sea of endless others, enabled by a twisted worldview that demonizes the Other and finds kinship in Americans with the greatest influence. As a community, we must grieve, and we must mourn. But we must also hope, and we must also act, to fight back and show that hatred has no place in Pittsburgh or the United States. I thus urge everyone to put more thought in the precision of their language and their actions. Understand that words have a lasting, powerful impact that can either dispel or encourage hatred, no matter how insignificant they seem. Listen to other opinions and try to empathize with them and those who produce them, lest the vast divide between partisan views becomes an irreconcilable chasm. Be patriotic, not nationalistic, and be outspoken against hatred and divisiveness. Finally, be kind. Be kind to your family, your friends, your classmates and teachers, your community members, and most importantly, yourself to balance out the hate that has battered our country in these past few days.

America does not belong to bomb throwers. It does not belong to shooters or torch bearers. It does not belong to those who peddle fear and hatred and prejudice, who encourage the stifling mindset of “us vs. them.” America belongs to the hopeful and to the loving and to the tolerant and inclusive who fight for a future in which there is a true fulfillment of what has always been the promise of this country: a place where there is freedom to live without fear of reprisal for gender, sexuality, color, national origin, handicap, or belief, a place where people are judged not by those factors but rather by their character and their heart.