Monday, December 12, 2016
Local Area, Country Must Not Accept Hate
Posted: Monday, December 12, 2016 12:00 am
There has been a lot of talk in our local area recently about "Hate." It needs to be defined a bit, and dealt with in an intelligent and reasonable manner.
This is not hate in the way that I hate spinach, going to the dentist or listening to New York sports fans.
The kind of hate that has been displayed and revealed in a few isolated (hopefully) incidents locally is a more deeply-rooted hatred, one based upon the idea that those different from us are to blame for our problems. And the fact it is less prevalent here than in many other places is no consolation or excuse.
A few weeks ago, a racial slur against African Americans was found scrawled on a bathroom wall at Attleboro High School. More recently, a similar racist insult was written on the ground on public property in neighboring Mansfield.
Officials in both communities have taken the incidents very seriously, and insisted such actions will not be tolerated.
Let's be honest here. The sad truth is while these acts of hate have been highly visible and publicized, they sadly are not entirely unusual. They have no place in a civilized society and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. But, let's not pretend this problem just popped up recently.
The trend lately is to blame the increase in these types of reported incidents on the recent election - and more specifically, the style of the successful campaign waged by President-Elect Donald Trump. But without a doubt, it can be stated Trump did not invent racism and/or bigotry.
He might well be guilty of both, depending on your point of view and interpretation. But in my own opinion, he is not the cause of it, either locally or nationally.
But he is largely the cause of something almost as bad.
President-elect Trump has made it acceptable and somewhat normal to express "hatred" of people you really don't even know.
He has established viciousness and meanness as a practical and acceptable alternative to so-called "political correctness." While still condemning the acts themselves, he and his supporters continue to undermine that condemnation by promoting policies and behavior that leads directly to them.
You can't appoint a national security adviser who states "Islam is not a religion," and claim that is not a bigoted act. You can't propose a ban on people of one certain religion from entering the country, and claim there is no racism or bigotry involved. You can't make a general comment that people coming here from Mexico are rapists, and still claim to reject prejudice, bigotry and racism.
Like it or not, the president and those around him have a huge (yes, I said huge) impact on our society and culture.
None of our presidents have been saints, and each has had their own style and method of achieving goals and working for the people. But in general, most of them have understood they are judged not just on their actions and accomplishments, but also by what kind of standards they set for the public they serve.
It's not OK to make reckless statements and claims with no proof, and then shrug them off later. It's not OK to act like a petulant 5-year-old and call people names because they said or did something you don't like. It's not OK to suggest or incite violence, and then claim you didn't - even in the face of proof you did.
Hatred itself is not the real problem. Including hatred as an acceptable aspect of our society and making it even somewhat normal is. And that is where we appear to be headed.
Perhaps this is a backlash from all the alleged political correctness of recent years. Maybe it's a blip on the radar screen, a moment of overreaction, a leveling off of sorts.
But, let's remember that hatred, bigotry and racism all hurt people. They destroy families. They disrupt communities and divide nations.
We cannot allow this current level of hate and anger to become the new "normal." We must do what Attleboro and Mansfield officials and citizens have done, and make any such incidents involving them a really big deal.
Because it's not OK. It's just not.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.