We may actually owe Donald Trump a thank you for being a jerk.
Donald Trump's rhetoric during and since the campaign has certainly emboldened haters. There is no doubt about that. The hate incident statistics and clear increase in online incivility speaks for itself.
However, it is very unlikely that these are newly minted haters. Quite the opposite. Many of the so called "alt-right" leadership and core members are white supremacists that have been known for years. Similarly, emergent vocal anti-gay, misogynist, anti-immigrant, fake news and anti-Semitic social media trolls are familiar names or closely connected to obvious networks of haters. For bringing them together and bringing many more to the surface, we owe Trump a thank you.
It seems that Trump's election has managed to prove the full extent of bias, hate and distrust in our country. Unfortunately, he harvested that cesspool for votes instead of using it as an example of what we need to overcome to be a better nation.
Don't look a gift Trump in the mouth. We now have a very clear picture of the task ahead of us. We now know that we need to teach the children better about others. We need to work harder at listening to our neighbors and we have to learn to disagree without jumping straight to hate.
We all now have evidence of what many social minorities have long told us; the hate never went away, it has been below the surface the entire time. But it is not as simple as minorities being targeted, i goes both ways. It is sharp and smart. It is blunt and stupid. It takes no prisoners. It does not sleep and it is created much easier than it can be destroyed.
We see the hate and it scares us. It scares us that it is there and that it has been there all the time. But we see it, and acknowledging the problem is the first step in dealing with it. Deal with it we must. Although these are not newly minted haters, they will eventually inspire a new generation of haters. We also have the seriously bad habit of responding to hate with hate. The hate we experience can make us haters ourselves. An endless path we have possibly been following all along.
I suspect hate cannot be stopped. It is way too useful to the wrong people. It can be made weaker and smaller. Hate grows strong with fear. Fear grows in darkness and isolation.
There always victims, targets or agendas to hate because no sane person hates reflexively. Look to the victims, not at the hate. Reach through the hate. Treat hate like fog and it becomes insubstantial. Treat victims as friends and their fear and darkness is mitigated. Reach and hold on to the things that we share instead of fixating on the things between us. Hate is small, and we can make it smaller. If it wasn't for Donald Trump, would we be wiser today about such things?