This post originally appeared at Truthout.
Before the recent election in Canada, I read an email from the progressive Council of Canadians (Le Conseil des Canadiens) warning that another xenophobic government led by Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper would lead the nation further down the path of suffering.
In the end, Liberal Party Candidate Justin Trudeau ended the nearly 10-year right-wing rule of Harper in October of this year. However, after the terrorist attack on the Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado on November 27, my mind returned to a quotation from that Council of Canadians’ email that warned that fear and those who incite it lead a nation to its basest inclinations: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
That is a perilous path, but it is one that the United States is experiencing with violent and not infrequently lethal outcomes: attacks on providers of medical services to women, racist shootings by police and white civilians, violence against migrants, killings of people because of their gender identities, brutal treatment of protesters and the massive number of deaths caused by US military intervention abroad among other legacies of this nation’s violent, racist and exclusionary history.
A Tampa Bay Times November 28 article recounts how “thousands cheer[ed] on insult-throwing Donald Trump at [a] Sarasota rally” on Saturday. There is little need to recount the countless inciting statements made by Trump over the last few months. His words combine cunning and brutality, giving his audiences license to hate and commit acts of violence (as he did when he commented that it was okay to “rough up” a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally because he “deserved” it).
It’s not Trump alone who is creating a society that may destroy itself through fear, hate and anger and the suffering that ensues. Columnist Bob Koehler writes in a BuzzFlash commentary today about how violence underlies the foreign policy outlooks of Republican and Democratic politicians alike.
Given that violence and genocide were the basis of the colonization of what is now the United States, it should be no surprise that hate and brutality lie just under the surface of the so-called civil white society. This country’s second original sin – the horrifying institution of slavery – is also built into the foundation of white supremacy on which the US was built.
When the US “expanded” through a strategy of killing Indigenous people in order to steal their lands – with its economic growth largely relying on the uncompensated labor of individuals whose bodies were stolen – it built its foundation on the lofty language of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution thinly wrapped over an ossuary.
After all, this is a nation that chisels the words that “all men are created equal” into every school child, but in reality, the principle was only applied to white men who owned property when it was written by Thomas Jefferson (who was a slave “owner” himself). The tension between the myth that the US was created to emancipate all people and its exclusionary intent still exists today, often manifesting in acts of violence and killings that are kindled by words spoken by “leaders” who stridently – even if in coded phrasing – oppose the inclusion of non-whites (and sometimes even non-Christians) in a participatory democracy.
Ultimately, the spread of fear, hate and anger leads not only to the suffering and death of the victims, but to the collapse of democracy as a whole. Just as fear stifles the thinking of an individual, so a country comes to be self-immolating by burning itself up in hate rather than harnessing the promise of its collective strength.
As the poet Bei Dao wrote, “Freedom is nothing but the distance / between the hunter and the hunted.”
The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers. Originally, this article referred to the Council of Canadians as the Council on Canadians. It has been corrected.