|Image source: DownEast Magazine |
Prominent Somali immigrant and community leader ZamZam Mohamud
conferring with police in Lewiston, Maine.
What keeps nagging at me to write about these days is the alarming, ugly, pervasive rise of hate language from bigots all over the U.S.A.
Here's a facebook post from a student at my alma mater (MsEd, 1997) in Portland, the University of Southern Maine (USM):
Neat, huh? The public university I support with my taxes is providing a warm nest for this hatefulness. A family member who attends the nearby Southern Maine Community College commented that this sort of sentiment is quite common in her classes, from youngish white men, many of them veterans of racist wars against brown people in petroleum rich areas of the planet.
Next comes this report from the West coast:
Yesterday I was verbally attacked for being a gay woman. "Have you looked in a mirror lately? You could be part man". Just when I thought bigots were beginning to evolve, it turns out they were just hiding in a closet. Thanks to the vile spewed by the hate-monger running for president, bigots are feeling empowered to show their true colors again. I tried to appeal to this ignorant and hateful bigot's humanity by pointing out how painful it is to be attacked on the basis of birth-given characteristics. He responded only by attacking me some more and telling me to "F--- off". Bigotry like a cancer will spread unless we acknowledge it and work to evolve as a species.I'm not sure where Ms. Northcutt, an attorney who represents people with disabilities, was when this happened, but she lives in an area with a large public university that is part of the University of California system. An area that used to be considered a bastion of tolerance and multiculturalism.
When right wing paid commenters hurl online insults at "politically correct" beliefs, this is what they are railing against: respect for other cultures, races, genders and sexual preferences.
My friend left her comment in response to my plea for some intelligent comments on a letter to the editor I had published after the demagogue with the bad hair came to Maine and scapegoated the Somali refugee community. Such letters, at least around here, immediately draw comments spewing hate and making absurd claims such as that white people are the actual victims of racism in the U.S.
I am watching this issue split apart families as they debate the news of the day online. It's scary to see people I used to know as tolerant and open-minded become bigots before my very eyes. I remember how often I have read accounts of the descent of Germany into fascism which cited this very thing. People wondered where their old friend or neighbor had gone, leaving a racist fanatic in their place.
For an excellent literary treatment of this theme -- one based on an actual incident -- I recommend this novella in the form of letters between friends, first published in 1938:
I dare say that when my stepson gave me this book as a gift fifteen years ago neither one of us anticipated that one day we, too, would watch as people we thought we knew transformed into monstrous haters under the influence of propaganda and right wing politics.
Finally, here's a subsequent post from our articulate USM student indicating that hate language isn't just words -- it's a force driving people away from access to an education.