I was just finishing up a head-banger of an assignment, watching my flat-fee dip to within a few dollars of minimum wage and thinking, “I can’t do this any more. This whole political thing.”
Then the email came in. The first thing I noticed was that it was a forward of a forward of a forward, and — standard with these things — my address was one of about 35 on an open cc list. I didn’t know the sender; he and I are merely involved in the same group and some of the others’ names were among those in the thrice-damnable open cc.
I scrolled down. That was my second mistake. After I scrolled below all the earlier open cc lists, I got to … a sewer full of foulness.
It was an article. It purported to be an English translation of something that had appeared in the Spanish media. Its message, which I’ll summarize in the briefest possible way, was: We (meaning Europeans) made a terrible mistake when we killed the Jews. Because the Jews are wonderful people — intelligent, cultured, refined. We wrecked Europe by killing them — because we traded them for Muslims who are, without exception, ignorant, dirty, vicious, violent, lazy, and all-around terrible. And they haven’t won anywhere near as many Nobel prizes!
I quit before getting to whatever “final solution” the writer might propose for the new okay-to-hate group and fired an angry response back at the sender.
Disclaimer for anyone who’s about to accuse me of being a damned liberal Muslim-lover who’s in denial about the world’s problems: Can immigration cause serious cultural disruption? Of course. Are there Muslims who hate everybody in the western world and want to harm us? Well, yeah. Am I fond of Islam? Let me tell you I’m not fond of any religion that preaches that its way is the only way and that everybody else deserves what they get. I’m not fond of true-believing fanatics, no matter what label they slap on themselves, and at this moment in history, yes, Islam has too many of those.
But having gotten that out of the way … why do people continually fail to understand (in the face of terrifying evidence) that once you start damning all members of any group, you’re going down a road the human race has traveled before — and the destination is a stinking, smoking desolation of bones and ashes?
It doesn’t matter whether the group you want to purge is the Jews, the Armenians, the Kulaks, gays, Arabs, Muslims (which, contrary to ignorant belief, are not synonymous), educated urbanites (ala Pol Pot), Catholics, Protestants … whoever. It doesn’t matter. It’s morally wrong and it turns out not just bad but inhumanly bad every, single time.
Why do they not understand that the claims they’re making about Group A have also been made about Group B at other times, in other places? “They’re dirty.” “They don’t think like us.” “They want to kill our babies.” “They cause disease.” “They think it’s okay to cheat everybody who isn’t like them.” On and on through the centuries. Familiar stuff. So easy to slap on some convenient “other.”
When will people get that the moment you cease to regard individuals as individuals and start regarding entire populations as nothing but verminous masses to be driven out or exterminated you have, right then, opened the gates of hell?
I’ve mentioned before that I lost a friend on 9/11. Not because she was on one of the planes or in one of the targeted buildings. But because she turned in an instant from being an individualist to being someone who wanted to throw every Arab (or every Muslim, she was never clear on that) out of the country and to force every other foreigner to wear special marks on their clothing. She saw neither the unfairness, nor the horror, nor the irony in that. She just feared and hated. What made it worse was that she kept expecting me to find her new views “reasonable.”
One thing that steams me about getting emails like the one that arrived today is that the senders imply, or at least assume, agreement. It’s one thing to watch some Fred Phelps type froth hatred; it’s another to get the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, “everybody knows” that “those people” are disgusting messages.
Having lived in immigrant neighborhoods for much of the last 25 years, I’ve gotten that wink-wink, nudge-nudge stuff before from people who “feel sorry” that I have to live around “those people” — whichever group it might be at any given time. I always want to say, “Buddy, you’re entitled to your opinions. But don’t slime me by assuming I share them.”
The ‘Net magnifies the worst of this. And the ‘Net, for all its otherwise blessedness, has a habit of dumping large piles of steaming … well, human verbal excrement onto our laps at the worst moments.
I wish with all my heart that I could get people to open their eyes and see that mass hatred leads to mass disaster — no matter what group you pick. But if history hasn’t gotten through, then my little voice isn’t going to penetrate, either. So let me just say, you bigots out there, that if you believe it’s okay to hate millions or billions of people you’ve never even met — don’t assume that decent individuals want your spewings to splatter all over them.