Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hate Has Consequences, And My House Is A Hate-Free Zone

Published in HuffPost
July 29, 2016 - 04:42 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Black Butte Ranch, Oregon (www.richweissman.com)

I push myself to see a position from multiple angles. It’s often hard, but I try to start with an open mind, hear the opposing views, and engage in the discussion assuming that each position is based on sound reasons. After all, tolerance is all about listening to all sides. I have friends and family who are Democrats, Republicans and independents; people who are of different religions, demographics, ages, incomes and world views. In my lifetime, I have voted for different parties in different elections for different candidates for different reasons. I approach each election as an opportunity to make a good choice, and not simply follow a particular doctrine. Sometimes I have made a good choice, sometimes not. But, I am not defined by the party for whom I vote; I am defined by my values and my ability to rationally assess a position that I find suitable at a particular point in history for a particular election for a particular candidate.

Tolerance of differing viewpoints is appropriate when the discourse is civil and when the participants have sufficient information and shared fundamental values of compassion and humanity. We can differ on our ideas on better approaches to ensure safety, sound economic and fiscal policies, improved infrastructure, rational foreign relations, improved methods of taxation, optimal systems for education and health, enhanced safety nets for those in need and for the elderly, and other important roles that government and elected officials play. I like to hear new ideas about how we can do better going forward. I do not surround myself only with those who agree with me on these issues, as I enjoy having people in my life with whom I disagree. I like this kind of intellectual diversity, and I learn from those who challenge me (and I hope that they in turn can learn from me). This is what a solid and educated democracy requires: people who embrace diverse ways of thinking and are open to being challenged in civil debate.

However, today I draw the line with Donald Trump (and now Mike Pence) supporters. This is not about differing opinions on issues or presenting new solutions to problems. Instead, this is entirely about the rise of fascism and hatred in our nation that comes from pandering to people who are highly uneducated, ignorant and looking for simple answers to a complex world. I will befriend and serve dinner in my dining room to all kinds of people with different perspectives. I will not, however, entertain Nazis at my house. Brown-shirt bullies and storm-troopers have no place in my home. Evil is where I draw the line, and people who support evil, intentionally or otherwise, have to be told that they are no longer welcome at my doorstep. It’s time to ostracize them, as they have crossed a line in which their positions are so horrific that they need to understand that there are consequences to their hate and support of violence, and that starts with being rejected by friends and families. I would not let someone wearing a swastika armband into my home, and I will not do that for today’s version of the swastika: the Trump hat, where the Nazi salute (which has been illegal in Germany and other parts of Europe since the end of WW II) showed its ugly face at Trump rallies. And so, Trump supporters have lost their invitation to my dinner table and holiday celebrations. I don’t want their birthday wishes; I don’t want their holiday cards; I don’t want their invitations; and I won’t have them gathering around the counter in my kitchen.

It’s hard to imagine: how is it possible that I know people who are fascists and Nazi-like? That can’t be. But what went on in Europe 80 years ago is unimaginable as well. Fascism isn’t an alien invasion of monsters from other galaxies; it’s ordinary and simple people who are angry and turn their anger into hatred and violence directed towards others by purposely following evil leaders who promise them greatness. My mother used to frequently quote Dante and say, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Such a crisis confronts us now.

Lots of us are very anxious about the notion of a “President Trump”. We should be anxious; we should be terrified. Most people I know do not support Trump. But I tend to be with educated and informed people who do not live their lives in fear of others. This is very different from the core Trump group. Nonetheless, there are some Trump supporters among my friends and family. I need to call them out and make it clear to them that this is not just another political opinion; it’s just plain evil, and I really don’t want evil people in my house.

Such bigotry, racism, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, anti-disability and other forms of out-and-out hatred and destructiveness towards innocent people and the democratic process must be called out loudly, and those who I personally know who support Trump must be told by me that my house is a hate-free zone. I will not have those who gleefully parade hate and violence think that they can do so without personal consequences. This is about ostracizing fascists one-by-one and sending them a clear message: you are no longer part of civil society and you have no place among people like me. In our nation, you have the right to think what you want and you have the right to vote for whomever you want; but, you have lost your right to sit with me in my living room.

Imagine how different the world would be if the European fascists were ostracized in the 1930’s, one-by-one. Perhaps history would have been otherwise. No one knows. But we do know that there are times in history when decent people have to draw the line. For me, that time is now, and I’m starting by simply letting my friends and family know that those who embrace hate will not find a welcome mat at my front door.