HATRED IS A VIRUS TOO

Yesterday, someone shot a pellet gun through the window of my friend’s business. The bullet hole was next to a sign that identified the business as black-owned, a sign he put up when everything around was being looted and destroyed a few weeks ago. It worked – he wasn’t looted, but then the sign marked him for a racist attack. The police officers who showed up shook their heads sadly as they said it was clearly racist. I stood with my friend in a sea of broken glass and saw in his eyes that he was fighting back tears.

“I just can’t believe this,” he kept saying. “Three months closed, it’s been so devastating, and now this.”

We both had to acknowledge, though, that while we were shocked, we weren’t surprised. This is the landscape of America right now. At the same time, just a few blocks down the road, police lined the sidewalk outside a small Jewish Center. A man had threatened people at the center with a knife, just because they are Jewish.

While Donald Trump is gleefully tossing out racial slurs, while Kayleigh McEnany tries to pass them off as light-hearted humor, there is a virus of hatred and racism in America that has been allowed to run rampant under the Trump administration. He might as well have announced, “Everyone who is filled with hatred for people of color – any color other than white – come on out. The weather’s fine. Bring your guns and your anger and aim well.”

Hours before my friend’s business was vandalized, Robert Redfield, the head of CDC, said that the pandemic of Covid-19 has “brought this nation to its knees.” He’s right, but at the same time another virus – one with ancient roots – is also beating us down. And that virus will last much longer than Covid-19. We will come up with a vaccine for Covid-19, but there is no vaccine for hatred. Its roots are too deep. Donald Trump, for all his ignorance, does know about that. He has been well-schooled in the art of divisiveness and the mechanics of encouraging rage, racism, and violence.

America’s history is rife with racism. Our country was created by stealing it from Native Americans and then systematically massacring them. Black history is a study in cruelty and inhumanity. The reason this moment is different from all those in the past is that, after so much history has been built up behind us, we are supposed to learn from it. If we don’t, it isn’t just that the center cannot hold, as William Butler Yeats wrote, nothing can hold. Everything has to break so that something new and clean can be formed.

Donald Trump’s legacy will be that he uncorked a reservoir of hatred and bigotry in this country that cannot be put back, even if he is voted out of office. Our future as a nation is still being written. We will either choose to confront and reject the inhumanity of the past, to make amends for it, to recognize that hatred will never disappear but it can be overpowered, or we will forever be defined by our callousness. We don’t need to have statues commemorating the despicable cruelties of racist figures from the past; we need wide open spaces to create something new. Otherwise, we will continue to  stand in rivers of broken glass as I was yesterday, looking through tears at other eyes that have been fighting back tears for way too long.

One Response to HATRED IS A VIRUS TOO

  1. Nancy Magi says:

    So right. “ Donald Trump’s legacy will be that he uncorked a reservoir of hatred and bigotry in this country that cannot be put back, even if he is voted out of office.“.

    Shame on those who haven’t decided to vote for.

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