Opinion by C J Oakes
For those who have been in hiding the last few days, hate is making headlines in the United States perhaps more than ever before in our history. The news includes North Korea planning a possible nuclear attack on Guam and a motor vehicle murder by White Supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. in Charlottesville, Virginia. Why? What is going on that hatred is once again rearing its ugly head in the land of the free? And why does this latest spate of hate seem so much more intense than in times previous? More to the point, when does hate become criminal?
A Brief History of Hate in the U.S.
Hatred is nothing new to humanity…nothing new to America. At one time, slavery was an issue which was based, not on hate, but on simple economics. To be sure, it WAS oppressive and inhumane economics, but economics nonetheless. It was only after the end of the U.S. Civil War that anger over Confederate loss was turned towards African Americans. This was rather natural, though undignified and unjust. This would have been the moment for the leadership in America to have responded in a way so as to set the record straight — the former slaves were not responsible for the elimination of slavery, which was the economic foundation of the Southern states.
Instead, the leadership of the nation went on to permit Jim Crow laws and largely protect the ignorant of the nation who wanted to blame someone. The ignorant always choose to blame those they believe cannot defend themselves. The ignorant tend to be brutish bullies. And bullies are cowards. So, bullies turn their anger to those they view as weak.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the former slaves were weak. They were lost. They did not know how to live as free people. And the Northern leadership of America failed them. At the same time, the Southern people were reeling from their loss and did not know another way of life. Washington, DC leadership failed them as well.
Moving into the 20th Century, a barrage of issues continued to foment mistrust, fear, anger, and hatred.
Once the Temperance Movement managed to get alcohol banned nationwide, the country was set on a course of hatred towards those who imbibed. Wars in the streets brought bloodshed and misery. While the nation was focused on fighting this new enemy, the anger of the Southern people continued to unjustly increase against blacks.
Once that issue was resolved with the passage of the 21st Amendment which overturned the 18th Amendment, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression. Anger over poor economics continued to breed contempt among the poor in the South, with race being the key dividing line.
Then came WWII and the Nazi threat. After that, the Cold War and McCarthyism. More hatred. During this time, the United States became engaged in the Korean War, a war which would never really end.
Hatred: The Korean War to Charlottesville, VA
Although the Korean War ended, the hard feelings created by that conflict did not end. Throughout the following decades, the ROC and U.S. supported forces along the southern border of the nation continued to display angst. As reported to me by a training Sargent when I was in the Army, it was not unusual for U.S. soldiers to be walking patrols along the DMZ to have to avoid hand grenades lobbed over the fence at them. That war never really ended. North Korea hates the United States to this day.
Yet, at the same time, the United States had never really addressed the issues of racial hatred that existed within its own borders.
Rather than deal with the issues, the United States under Richard Nixon launched the most divisive war ever — the War on Drugs…a war, which could really be called a War on Families of Color. Nixon won by promising the South a “return to family values” and “states rights.” This was code for a new form of Jim Crow laws…in the guise of the Drug War. As Nixon himself stated,
“The problem is really with the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this without appearing so.”
Indeed. Hence, the Drug War. It became a handy tool to return black America to an enslaved condition without appearing to do so. It became the means by which we today have a very divided society, an us versus them attitude between law enforcement and the public, mainly, the African American public.
Lessons in Hate from President Obama to Donald Trump
President Barak Obama became the first black President in U.S. History. This should have signaled that times had changed. But instead of the DC leadership taking the reigns to further foster growth in this area, many chafed at his leadership. Why did Mitch McConnell filibuster his OWN bill? Why did GOP leadership oppose him at every turn? Not just because he was a democrat — I have never seen such opposition from a Congress in my life as came during the Obama years.
Almost as a confirmation that my suspicions were correct, Donald Trump led a campaign of hatred and bigotry on many fronts — against blacks, Latino’s, women, gays…anyone non-white. It was the most divisive Presidential election I had witnessed in my life and it demonstrated that the Obama years were viewed by many white Americans as years of oppression, not because he was a democrat, but because he was black.
Now here we are.
Can President Trump Heal the Nation?
Trump has talked a big talk, but so far, that is all it is. Talk. He claims to want to unify the country, yet makes no real moves in that direction. He claims to be the great deal-maker, yet appears to tie his own hands with his tongue. By failing, however, to draw a line in the sand, to take a definitive stance against hatred, and then to finally do so in a half-hearted way, President Trump has shown that the issue is not really that important to him. It is a position that will allow the issue to continue to grow and fester. It is a position of weakness and as history shows will lead to future conflicts which only serve to weaken US as a nation.
Maybe President Trump means well. But the fact is that he has to deal with more than a Century and a half of incompetency by DC bureaucrats. The current hatred is systemic. The current hatred is based on 152 years of anger over the loss of the Confederacy, the loss of self-determination in the South, the loss of Confederal self-identity, the loss of southern dignity, wrong though it may be. It will take far more than our current president appears to possess to overcome this history.
No nation in history has ever allowed a fallen nation to fly its former flag and retain the monuments of its former glory — only in the United States was the Confederacy allowed to continue its traditions, which started as self-determination but grew into animosity and hatred, hatred that eventually became sponsored by the state vis-à-vis Jim Crow and the Drug War.
Hate became criminal the moment Congress, the President, and the United States Supreme Court allowed it to grow. When a decisive stance should have been taken in the late 1800s, the leadership in America faltered and failed. It has continued to do so largely unabated ever since and has even been fueled from time to time by power-hungry politicians like Nixon…and now Trump.
This latest violent clash in Charlottesville, VA is just the natural consequence of the hens coming home to roost. We can expect more…and likely worse. Assuming we do not get into a nuclear conflict with North Korea in the mean time.