History Teaches Us That Hate Speech Always Leads To Violence
Words really do kill, as do the ideas behind them. Yes, words can heal, soothe, and inspire. But just as much, they lead to lasting harm.
Many of us learned in high school history that a pamphlet by Thomas Paine, Common Sense, impelled thirteen colonies to seek independence. In the next century, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and galvanized the North to grasp the horror of slavery. These writings led to war, but they also led to greater freedom.
On the other hand, we have the speeches of Adolph Hitler. These, too, galvanized a nation. As we know, they led to one of the largest genocides known to history.
In 1927 Nuremberg, Hitler enumerated the problems Germany faced. He did not call for mass murder. At least, not then. He did rail against immigrants. Germany lacked space and jobs for Germans. They could not countenance immigration. Further, immigration diluted the “pure blood” of a nation: “A people that has the best blood but does not understand it, squandering it, receives no protection from its lasting value.”
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Hitler described three components of power: geographic space for a large population; drive to self-assertion, and as mentioned above “race.” Today we look at race as skin color. ‘This understanding itself is flawed, but that would be an entirely different topic. Hitler looked far beyond skin color and into culture. Place of origin didn’t count. Jews, Romani, other minorities stood apart from “real Germans,’ no matter how many generations were born there.
In this speech, he finally got around to his fear of globalism. First, Hitler pointed out that “this large international power organizes its terror groups by appealing to their lower instincts, but also reduces their potential resistance through intellectual influence.” That sentence doesn’t make sense, but it was his build-up to the arch-villains of internationalism: Jews.
Hitler’s plan to exterminate Jews developed incrementally after this speech. But we see the building blocks of the Nazis, including national expansion and acquisition of land: need for space, jobs for “real” Germans, no immigration, no globalism, and most of all, the danger posed by the Jews. He also railed against false news reports accusing him of military aggression, even though he was in the midst of well-documented military aggression .
This is not to compare the third Reich to the present administration. Not yet.However our nation must be alert to the danger signs. It’s questionable whether in 1927 Hitler knew that within a decade, these tenets would lead him to attempt the conquest of Europe and to become the worst mass murderer in history. However, that was the logical outcome of his ideas in 1927.Looking to make a difference? Consider signing one of these petitions:
Let’s fast forward to the recent massacre at the Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas. The shooter left an online screed of his main “complaints.” They mostly centered on immigration and the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Forget the fact that Texas began its history as part of Spain. Latinos were there well ahead of Europeans. The shooter worried that immigrants would take jobs. It didn’t matter that these immigrants took jobs no one else wanted. He did not expect their children to settle for the same. Then they’d come for “our” jobs. The shooter also ranted about race-mixing, long the battle cry of the Jim Crow South who feared coming mongrelization of the races. For most of American history, this was code for: we cannot treat people of color as equals. And people of color were — and still are — seen as less than human.
Hitler used terms of dehumanization. Jews and anyone on his hit list were: vermin, insects, animals. And invaders. And who isn’t afraid of a coming invasion?
The El Paso shooter used the term invasion six times in his short manifesto. Not so coincidentally, that term is frequently used politically and by right wing media to refer to immigrants and asylum seekers. Therefore, instead of seeing through a compassionate lens, we react in fear, anger, and hatred,
Right-wing platforms often refer to the loss of the great American culture. But what is that culture? American culture has evolved and changed over the centuries. Further, hate-filled ideology was once confined to the margins of society, but now it is part of the mainstream.
We hear this theme from the President: invasions by less than human marauders who should go back to their countries of origin, no matter where they were born, In once speech, Mr. Trump seemed to laugh about shooting them as a solution.
Hate crimes and attempted hate crimes did not stop with the El Paso massacre. Others were emboldened. The day after the El Paso shooting, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested a man named Richard Clayton. Clayton also thought Wal-Mart was ripe for shooting. He posted: “3 more days of probation left, then I get my AR-15 back. Don’t go to Wal Mart next week.” Clayton does follow white supremacist ideology. Charges included making written threats to kill or do bodily harm. Hopefully, he will not get his gun back.
The there’s Eric Lin from Maryland. He loved and admired Adolf Hitler. He was arrested for sending a Miami Hispanic woman a long string of threats. And for paying someone to “beat her up.” Lin wanted to follow up by killing every Hispanic person in Orlando. He said: “I thank God every day Donald John Trump is President and that he will launch a Racial War and Crusade to keep the Niggers, Spics, and Muslims and any dangerous non-White or Ethnically foreign group ‘In Line.’ By ‘In Line” it is meant that they will either be sent to ‘Concentration Camps’ or dealt with Ruthlessly and vigorously by the United States Military.”
And there’s James Patrick Reardon of Ohio for threatening to shoot up a Jewish community. Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
The arrests pour in, but not everyone gets caught. All of these are aggravated by toxic, inflammatory speech.
The biographer Ron Chernow quoted George Washington as saying on April 18, 1783, at the end of the American Revolution: “…in erecting this stupendous fabric of freedom… and establishing an asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.” (Chernow, Ron. Washington, A Life. P 439.)
Despite the statements of some of our leaders to the contrary, this has always been the great, inspiring foundation of our country. We dare not be led astray by white nationalism, harsh anti-immigration rhetoric, and policies, mislabeling real information as fake news, let alone demonization of any group.
We are part of the greatest experiment on earth: American democracy was founded on the noblest ideals and aspirations. Our history has been one of turning those ideals into reality. We dare not let up our guard now.
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