EDITORIAL: Fear-Mongering Invades Rossland
A reader has notified me of a disturbing incident. It was just paper — three pages of it — tacked to a fence in downtown Rossland, but the reader reported that it was an attempt to spread hate in our Mountain Kingdom. The targets were the usual ones that bigots love to hate: “liberal,” feminist, Jewish, LGBTQ; and the tone, said the reader, was “hateful, aggressive and belligerent.”
The papers appeared to be authored by someone from Idaho, who claimed to be a “street evangelist.” In normal language, an “evangelist” is someone who tries to convince others to become Christian, instead of spreading hatred. Sounds like this fake evangelist needs to learn a more charitable brand of Christianity.
It turns out that this hate-monger is described in Wikipedia as an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.” Pictures of him on his own website show him shaggy-bearded, cavorting with a cross and dressed in monks’ robes, though he is no longer a monk. He has a “foundation”, which he is using along with his website and YouTube videos to spread his particular brand of rather simple-minded venom — blaming certain groups of people (such as Jews and gays) for “social disruption.” That, I think, is pretty rich, coming from a person doing his worst to disrupt our society by propagating fear and anguish among its various members, using divisive tactics to rip society apart into opposing factions. (Perhaps he was encouraged by the example of the new US president-elect, who appears to have benefited from using hateful language.)
Hate-mongers like this always make me think they need some mental health care. They may be suffering from delusions and psychosis; perhaps they actully believe their own out-to-lunch utterances. Or maybe this one just wants other sickos to send him money so he can make more attempts to damage society.
How should we react to bigotry, racism, homophobia and the like? Many people would argue for just ignoring it in hopes that it will go away. But ignoring bad behaviour sometimes gives it a sort of social license: “Well, nobody objected, so I guess it’s OK — I can do more of that.” Ignoring the mould growing on last week’s left-overs won’t make it go away; you have to actually remove it by throwing it out, or it will just keep spreading. And so will fear and hatred that someone is stoking.
Some have indicated that they find an element of truth in some of what this self-styled “evangelist” is preaching. From what I’ve seen, one has to dig pretty hard to find truth in there, and there’s much too much weirdness along with it to take anything he says seriously. It’s the disordered rambling of a bigot.
Yes, the big corporate media are, in my opinion, a danger to democracy because of the concentration of their power over what is published. I believe in supporting local, independent media. But I do not blame the concentration of mainstream-media power on any race, creed, or sexual orientation.
We shouldn’t just ignore hateful behaviour, and make no mistake, anti-Semitism is hateful behaviour. We have to throw it out. We have to let our children know it’s destructive, and that if they adopt it, it will hurt them. We have to let our neighbouring adults know that too, if they seem to falter in their civility toward others on the basis of some difference in creed or colour.
We humans are one race — the human race. We are facing enormous challenges today, which we will have a much better chance of overcoming if we stand together and work together.
Those challenges may be part of the pervasive sense of fear that is providing such fertile ground for people looking for someone to blame — especially someone else. After all, it isn’t very comfortable to know that all of us, to varying degrees, are actually to blame for climate change, for our dysfunctional economy and huge “wealth gap,” for the major loss of agricultural soils, for pollution of our air and waters, for the collapse of fisheries, for poorly-regulated mining practices that result in contamination of rivers and the loss of fisheries there, for the massive die-offs of pollinators, for impoverishing our biosphere by the ongoing human-caused extinctions of species, and on and on. So begins the search for scapegoats.
But why do people want to be bigots and hate-mongers? What’s really driving that impulse? Does it give them a sense of power? Is it just a form of bullying?
Many animals, including humans, have an almost instinctive fear of strangeness: we call that “xenophobia” and it often manifests as racism. But when the “strangers” live near us and become our friends, we realize that they aren’t really so strange or frightening after all. A striking example of knowledge overcoming ignorance and fear is the Islamic Centre constructed in Memphis, directly across from Heartsong Christian Church. See that worthwhile story here: http://www.upworthy.com/what-happens-when-a-muslim-center-opens-up-across-from-a-christian-church-community
Fear and bigotry spring from ignorance. Let’s not be ignorant in this community, and let’s not allow ignorance to spread here. Stand with and support anyone who comes under attack from bigots and hate-mongers. Let the attackers know that their behaviour is contemptible. (Yes, the behaviour — most people are capable of learning and changing.)
The reader who reported the recent sample of hate literature urged,
” Report any similar activity to the authorities. Talk to your friends and family about these issues, about the danger of xenophobia. Tell those in your life who are a minority that you recognize their struggle and are there for them. Correct those who try to blame entire racial and/or cultural groups for social injustice. If you witness a minority being attacked go be with them, stand near them, talk to them, be in solidarity with them as you help remove them from danger. Most importantly, write to our leaders (Mayor, MP, Cabinet Ministers) about your concerns; demand answers for how they plan to tackle issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and anti-Semitism in our community, province, country and planet. Do not stand idly by. Take action.”
Yes. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable about a person because they’re (fill in the blank here: gay, Jewish, different-coloured, of a different political stripe), try being courageous enough to sit down and talk with them about the things you are concerned about or interested in, and find out what they’re concerned about or interested in. If you do that instead being a coward by bullying or bad-mouthing them, or even just avoiding them, you can begin to discard your ignorance. And you’ll feel better.