This post has been published anonymously to protect the identity of its author, who is still receiving messages of hate.
Recently I did a radio interview in which I argued for equal access to certain social services, such as health care, for migrants and refugees. I did not focus on the instrumental value migrants have for countries – I did not focus on the economic and health benefits everyone has if people on the same territory are able to work, and are healthy and sane. I focused on the broader ethical arguments for equal access, even though I mentioned the instrumental arguments too. Perhaps I should have expected that not everyone would agree with my views. But nothing could possibly have prepared me for the hate mail that I received after the interview. In this post, I try to describe the experience and make a plea for greater solidarity in standing against such hate.
I must say I did not know what hate is until I became victim of hate mail after this interview. The short and ugly wave that hit me was enough to let me understand the dimension of hate in a way that I couldn’t before. It is awful. It is emotionally dangerous, as a friend told me. This kind of hate can reach you. It can reach the most inner part of you, it can let you feel entirely vulnerable to all sorts of violence, to insecurity, you fear for the life of your next of kin for no factual reason, you feel poisoned. Just because you suddenly understand that all of this is completely out of control, and that they are seemingly taking control on a wider scale.
This kind of hate is combined with ignorance towards facts and basic reasoning. It feels as if we have no weapons against this kind of hate. No weapons at all. I mean – weapons that a more or less reasonable and peaceful person would like to use. There is no way to argue, explain, discuss, debate. They picked on the “ethical arguments” but in a distorted, disturbing, ugly way. It seems as if there is no way to reach that complex web of hate with our tools of communication we usually use. Inside – outside, two separate worlds.
And the haters currently find successful parties and people they can vote for. They feel empowered, they feel strong, connected, mirrored by those politicians who jump onto this wave or initiate them. Nigel Farage lied during the Brexit campaign? Donald Trump’s speech is almost entirely wrong according to fact checkers? Followers don’t even seem to care. It is not about truth. It is about systematic hate and ideology. That is so comfortable, so lazy. And so dangerous. Is hate the new normal? Is anti-reasoning the new normal?
The Brexit was one of the great big wake up calls. So many other voting patterns are too. Turkey is. Terrorist attacks are. What else do we need to get our acts together and strategically think about what to do? We are heading towards something really really ugly, or are already right in the middle of it. Help, you, me, everyone. You can read in an excellently written blog about the Republican National Convention: “Shell-shocked members of the press stumble out into the street. One journalist from a major mainstream outlet breaks down in tears. ‘It’s just — there’s so much hate’”. I relate to that. It brings you to tears, you feel paralyzed, helpless, powerless, stripped from everything that you believed in that can make this world function. You might want to leave the world for a moment. I felt all this, and maybe that is the intention of this wicked, fanatic, cowardly and dumb game: To paralyze you, to mute you, to discourage you, to scare you, to make you feel singled out and alone.
What are we doing against hate? What should we be doing? It seems that our constant reasoning, fact checking and arguing helps us but doesn’t do anything with the haters, maybe except for giving them more reason to laugh at, or just ignore and hate. Shouldn’t we find better ways to pull the emergency break?
I wish we could wear a button: ‘I received hate mail’. And to be able to wear this as a trophy, to show haters that we don’t care, we are proud that we reached their souls, stole their time because they had to sit down and write this f*ing email. The more button wearers, the better. Signals of solidarity. Show them and by that empower ourselves that the hate won’t get to us. That we will go on fighting for those who are said to have little or no voice. That we will fight for better education, more reasoning, more critical thinking, more cooperation towards justice and peace, more inclusion of so-called minorities.
There must be something beyond fear, paralyzation and powerlessness. Something with sustainable effects like education, research on hate, programs for more social equality, etc. but also something that can start right now. The visible and publicly outspoken bond and solidarity of all of those who do not want this to happen? Strategies how to legally punish haters and define clear limits of what is acceptable and what is not?
At the very least we need to firmly believe, publicly show and live that justice, inclusion and peace are stronger than hate. And that fear can be overcome by connectedness, hope and courage. Everyone of us can do that right now. Everyone can reach out to those who are (potentially) being hated, and strengthen the message that we can and should do more to counteract what is happening right now. Maybe this is the sad truth, but maybe this also carries a certain power we haven’t recognized yet: All of us who are pro-inclusion, justice and peace, we can probably count ourselves as being hated. We should wear our buttons with pride.