Don't think you're immune to this growing sickness simply because you blend in, or have a college degree, or live in a respectable neighborhood, or have kept your head above the fray.
You, dear friend, are next, even as you hold fast to the lie that this could never happen to you because you're the "right" color, or the "right" religion, or the "right" sexual orientation. Or because you are the "right kind" of immigrant.
Don’t delude yourself. Except for the anointed few, we’re all next in a society where fear is stoked by all sides, where insults are the common currency of political disagreements and haters have been emboldened to act on their basest instincts.
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Muslims and Jews have qualified as the first victims in the latest wave of hate crimes, but it won't be long before those of us who don't fit into a particular genotype will be victims too. In the past few days, two Jewish cemeteries were vandalized, residents in a Miami Beach neighborhood woke up to find swastikas etched on their cars, and bogus bomb threats have rocked Jewish community centers around the country, including those in South Florida.
In Key West a drunken tourist shouted gay slurs at two men, then drove his scooter at one of them. "You live in Trump country now," he reportedly told them. In Kansas, the FBI is investigating the death of an Indian engineer and the injuring of another after the alleged shooter, apparently mistaking them for being Middle Eastern, yelled, "Get out of my country." And last week, Portland police reported a 35-year-old Hispanic man was assaulted by an assailant who shouted anti-immigrant slurs at him.
It may be tempting to blame these recent incidents on our new president — and many have — but I consider that a simplistic explanation that is far too facile and far too forgiving of the rest of us. Long before Donald Trump moved into the White House, a new trend was clearly emerging. The number of hate groups, previously on the decline, had already begun to climb in 2015.
Yes, we were a country divided even before the presidential campaign kicked off. All one had to do was read the comments section of online sites to recognize the resentment and hostility, the growing sense of alienation, in the populace. One faction or another invariably felt it was getting the short end of the stick. It still does.
This recent spate of hate incidents, however, underscores not so much a political shift but a demographic one. It’s a reflection of fear. Fear of inevitable changes. Fear of losing a culture. Fear of new neighbors with different traditions.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that the surge of hate groups is "driven in part by anger over Latino immigration." But this is more than anti-immigrant fervor. It’s a reaction — and a rejection — to the evolution that enabled us to become more accepting of non-Christian faiths and the LGBT community as well. Hate groups are a symptom of a coarsened society that can’t or won’t adapt to change.
Here and there I find glimmers of hope, however. In the Muslim-Americans raising money for the vandalized Jewish cemeteries. In the Connecticut interfaith Humanity Rally that attracted a diverse crowd. In the readers who argue their opinions in emails with logic and facts instead of stooping to name-calling.
But in a world void of nuance, in a world desperate for hope, will these small humanities be enough?