When Hate Becomes the Only Answer

Published: July 15, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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Saturday’s attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump is a stark sign that political hate speech has taken on an urgency we have not seen in decades and has reinforced the belief that the upcoming presidential election is a battle between “Us vs. Them.” Identity politics has reached a point where we see each, not as Americans, but either patriots or enemies—enemies to be defeated by any means necessary.

All of this has led us to a dark place where we witnessed the cost of those means at a political rally on Saturday. Hate has not just become normalized; it has metastasized into extremism, spreading across the country’s political and cultural landscape and for many, social media has become the arbiter of right and wrong under the guise of free speech.

Yesterday, I was walking into a grocery store as an older white man was walking out wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with hateful slogans aimed at a political party. Heading out to the parking lot, his anger spilled out in a barrage  of hateful words and phrases with no regard for anyone he passed.

Yet, reason and respect do exist.

Last week, The New York Times interviewed nine city mayors from around the country, both Democrats and Republicans. One question The Times asked: “What gives you hope about the United States?”

Republican Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said, “I actually don’t think we’re a polarized country. There’s like 70 percent in the middle who just want to work together to get things done, and they’re registered Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.”

Michigan City, Indiana, mayor Angie Nelson Deuitch, a Democrat, said, “I’ve been putting younger people on boards and commissions. And they’re engaged—more engaged than I ever thought they would be.”
Tampa, Florida, mayor and democrat Jane Castor said, “Our democracy will survive. I have no doubt about that.”

I believe her. But when will that happen, and what will it take?

Note: New shoulder issues prevent me from writing. Will get back as soon as possible.

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