Sunday, January 01, 2017

Americans Are Too Timid In Confronting Hate


Despite the efforts of Republicans to spin the 2016 presidential election results as an uprising of working class whites stressed over economic concerns (a lie that a gullible and lazy media has been happy to Promote), the sad truth of the matter is that hatred was a key element utilized by Donald Trump to rally the GOP base and to win over some past Democratic voters who were outraged to see what they viewed as their white Christian privilege being eroded - eroded by blacks, Hispanics, gays and others.  The other key was the usual Republican tactic of playing to religious extremism best embodied in anti-abortion rhetoric and anti-LGBT sound bites.  This latter ploy not only won over 81% of evangelicals but also duped some Hispanics and blacks to vote against their own interest. Now, with an unfit narcissistic madman in the White House and a GOP controlled Congress, in 2017 it will be all the more important to oppose and counter appeals to hatred.  A piece in The Daily Beast authored by a German sets out why confronting hate is so important.  Here are excerpts:
Late in the evening on Christmas day, Stephanie Pazmino slashed a black, transgender man after he offered her a subway seat. “I don’t want to sit next to black people,” Pazmino told the victim. A couple of weeks ago a man walked into a 7-Eleven in the Bronx. He had no intention to purchase anything but wanted to use the store’s microwave. When the Muslim clerk told him that this was against store policy, the man responded that he could do whatever he wanted. He told the clerk to go back to ‘his country’ and threatened to physically harm him.
At the beginning of December a hijab-wearing city transit worker was assaulted by a passenger who confronted her on the 7 train. “You’re a terrorist and you shouldn’t be working for the city,” said the man, according to reports, as he jabbed a finger at her MTA badge. He followed her off the train at Grand Central Terminus, and then pushed her down stairs at the station. (She was taken to hospital with injuries to her knee and ankle.) The attacker was not apprehended, and there were no reports of anyone trying to intervene.
According to the New York Police Department, bias incidents in New York have spiked 400 percent in the two weeks that followed the election of Donald J. Trump, compared to the same period last year.
Earlier this year, I was a witness to one such attack. Riding the 7 Train into Manhattan from Queens, arguably the most diverse place on earth, I heard someone yelling anti-Muslim insults. A man had pushed a young woman in a hijab off her seat, and the woman was crying.
I decided to stand between victim and perpetrator. I was the only person who responded until a man who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent joined me. My heart was racing, as I explained to her, between gasps for air, that there’s a red emergency button she can push if something like this ever happens again. The woman spoke little English and didn’t seem to understand.
I am not sharing this story to congratulate myself but to illustrate what I’ve learned from growing up in Germany.
I’m a small but furious German. When I went to high school in Bavaria in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the horrors of fascism still echoed through the classrooms. Germans have internalized that the reason why Adolf Hitler was able to rise to power was that no one stood up for the Jews.
I have plenty of problems with Germany, but its people’s willingness to speak their minds and stand up for others isn’t one of them. Whatever you do, in Germany the public good trumps your individual desires.
Germans have also worked hard to understand how the unspeakable happened. They have one of those unwieldy compound words for it: Vergangenheitsbew√§ltigung, or “the process of coming to terms with your past.” The concept includes a duty to intervene when another’s dignity or life is in danger.
I vividly recall the teacher-led discussions in high school that dealt with the persecution and deportation of Jews. What would you do if it was your neighbor: look the other way or step up? We read eyewitness accounts of “good Germans” who hid Jews in their attics.
“The Jews had it coming,” my paternal grandmother told me. More than once she said, “The Nuremberg Rallies were the best times of my life.”
Perhaps it is for this reason, more than my schooling, that the recent spike in hate crimes hits close to home.
These aren’t isolated incidents anymore. Yet it is a trend our soon-to-be leader has decided to ignore. So how should we respond? What can we do to avoid becoming bystanders in something unspeakable? If you still think that we should just wait and see, I wonder when will you step in. Will you step in when it is too late?
When you move to the U.S., even from a western country like Germany, there will always be things that remind you that you don’t fully belong. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I love about America. . . . . And yet for the most part, it is our job as immigrants to this country to assimilate to the American way, rarely the other way around.
I am beyond frustrated that we’re stuck with a president who, just like Adolf Hitler, despises refugees, intellectuals, journalists, women and non-Christians.
[T]he very thing that makes America great—its people’s quiet acceptance of other beliefs, their overwhelming friendliness, their effort to always get along—now threatens to become its downfall. I loathed having to read my friends’ whiny Facebook posts about how they were dreading Thanksgiving because of the elections. “Boohoo, I have to talk about politics to someone who thinks differently than I do!”
Here, this German said it. Will you still like me? I am asking because I believe what stands in the way is Americans’ compulsive need to be liked. At moments like this, though, we need to learn to object and intervene—whether in public protest or simply around the family dinner table. You don’t have to get into a fight to try out my little German lesson, but if you see something, do something.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” wrote the philosopher Edmund Burke. Exactly. So don’t just be good. Be a good German.

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