In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves.
My last column, for example, about Donald Trump, drew missives from folks who, like Trump, claimed to have seen the Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11 on television. A couple of the writers threatened to come "look me up" and "straighten me out" about my "lies" about their hero. Nice.
The angry, crazy xenophobes have always been with us. You don't have to look to the Spanish Inquisition or Nazi Germany for examples. In the U.S. the Irish, Catholics, Jews, and African Americans have all been targets of racism and discrimination through the decades. The enslavement of black Americans is a permanent stain on our history, as is the institutional racism that persisted long after the Civil War.
Dylann Roof read white supremacist literature that falsely claimed African Americans were killing whites at a high rate. (Trump recently retweeted similar false statistics.) Roof took his revenge at a church in South Carolina. Robert Lewis Dear was spouting antiabortion rhetoric to police after his murderous rampage in Colorado Springs. The two Islamist terrorists who killed 14 innocent people in San Bernardino last week had been radicalized by ISIS' loathsome doctrine of hatred. Hate and ignorance comes in all colors.
Does anyone doubt that we'll see a new surge of anti-Muslim violence in the U.S. in the wake of the California attack and Trump's fascistic response to demonize all Muslims? I don't. And so it goes. We ramp up the anger and inevitable violence in the U.S., giving more propaganda ammunition to Muslim extremists. Trump is playing his followers right into their hands.
And we just keep upping the ante. The president is called a "pussy" on Fox News, and worse on countless websites. Not even his wife and children are spared. I pray his security team is on full alert. I researched a couple of my emailers and found white supremacist websites that are terrifying. We can only hope the feds are monitoring them.
Yes, the hateful xenophobes and racists have always been there, but now we're all connected via social media, so we're exposed like never before to viewpoints that are an affront to human decency. "Unfriending" on Facebook is rampant, assuring that we silo ourselves even further into echo chambers for our own beliefs. And sensationalist media coverage just keeps turning up the heat. The annual "War on Christmas" insanity has become as much a part of the season as mistletoe. Damn you, Starbucks, and your satanic cups. (I'm not buying that Christmas blend, either.)
"Happy Holidays!" How dare you? It's "Merry Christmas," you heathen.
Is there anything we can't turn into a reason to fight each other? I'm beginning to doubt it. My advice: Pray for peace and prepare for anything.