Muftic: How racial and ethnic hatred destroys nations and their people
Donald Trump’s once implied tolerance of white nationalist support and his many hints of sympathy for them are now explicit.
Trump revealed that dark corner of his mind in the bright light of his post-Charlottesville tweets and public statements. These events have reminded me of my personal lifelong quest to understand why people of civilized and educated nations act out hatred of fellow citizens, unmindful that it would lead to the destruction of their own homelands. If the history of Nazi Germany and the tragedy of Bosnia are not sufficient lessons of where this can lead, heaven help our country.
I am optimistic that America is taking a different course because of the growing number of Republican leaders and corporate America CEOs who called out Trump for giving the KKK and neo-Nazis the same moral equivalence as those who opposed them. Others, from clergy to the military Joint Chiefs reaffirmed their condemnation of racial hatred. Sheer numbers of those marching overwhelmingly peacefully against hate in Boston Saturday further relegates those hate groups to a fringe that uses terrorist tactics to inflate their influence.
My 1958-1959 junior year abroad was spent in an occupied post war Berlin where shrapnel scarred remains of buildings were separated by empty spaces of rubble. I had many conversations with Germans as I tried to understand how Nazis came to power and the Holocaust happened. I met my future husband, a refugee from another destroyed, Nazi invaded country, Yugoslavia. From him I got personal insights into a family experiences and views. On spring break, I toured his country, the first of many visits. Yugoslavia was not only a battleground between Nazi forces and the resistance, there was an ethnic war, as well. The subsequent Communist government of dictator Marshal Tito kept the lid on simmering ethnic hatred until after his death the 1990s Balkan wars broke out. I was a close hand witness of the times leading up to that conflict and the aftermath. The Balkan’s economic recovery from communism was set back years. The former Yugoslavia is now broken up into several small countries.
What I did find from Berlin to the Balkans is that political leaders rose to power by appealing to many of their countrymen’s long time hatred of those of a different faith or ethnicity leaders hyped blame on these “others” as the reason for individual and national failure. They struck a responsive chord with large numbers of their population who felt victimized and others who believed in those same leaders who promised to solve their economic malaise and chose to turn their backs on the rest.
I see those same elements of blame and victimization in the United States in recent polls. In one study 45 percent of Trump voters, felt they were being more discriminated against than were minorities. Those in Trump’s own administration have whispered to reporters, while expressing dismay in his post Charlottesville comments, they would stick with Trump because he has promised tax and regulatory reform and economic growth. Likewise, recent polls show Republicans are standing by their man.
An icon of the results of ethnic hatred is one of those fragments of Yugoslavia: Bosnia. During my frequent visits to Bosnia I have seen what happened when ethnic hatred erupted into ethnic cleansing. Bosnia is now the poorest country in Europe with a government paralyzed by ethnic groups still not working out their differences, but fortunately working within a nominal framework of democracy.
When I see white supremacists chanting “take back America,” which means ridding America of all who are not white Christians or subjugating them to white rulers, I get sick to my stomach. I know how that can end.
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