Ideal with people all the time who have been acculturated to hate, and when something complicates that, they don’t know what to do. If you extend a hand, many of them will grab it because hating is exhausting. It’s miserable and demoralizing, and it makes you depressed. Some people are just not ready to engage, but I never rule out the possibility of having those people hopefully see something they haven’t seen before.
Parents learn that when they’re really angry with their kids, that’s not the time to react or discipline them. And the same is true of fear. It will cause you to do all kinds of irrational things. So if we want to be rational, if we want to be thoughtful and strategic and compassionate, we’re going to have to push back against the politics of fear and anger. Once you have a consciousness about it, you hear it. So when you listen to a political speech, and what the candidate is saying is “Be afraid and be angry,” then you want to ask yourself, Why is that the prescription I’m being given?
Part of understanding history is that you’ll see that it was fear that generated the most shameful and destructive abuses of our past, like the genocide of Native Americans, slavery, lynching and segregation. The placement of Japanese-americans in concentration camps was based on an irrational fear and anger. But what we did was unjust, un-american and unconstitutional. And it was racist: We didn’t have the same response to German-americans or Italianamericans. Understanding that can temper what we should think on issues like immigration or education.
So when you hear someone say, “Those people, they’re nothing but animals. Those people are rapists,” you begin to think, Wait a minute! We don’t talk like that. That’s not a pathway to responsible government. When you do that, politicians can’t talk that way with an expectation of reward. We’re at a moment where there is a rise of the politics of fear as a pathway to power. It’s also a pathway to oppression and injustice and inequality. And those are the things that have to compel us to resist them. (Excerpted from an interview with Mary Kaye Schilling.)