Mike McCabe
Op Ed

No Nation Built on Hate Can Be Great

New state group, We Are Many, seeks to change hearts and minds.

By - Aug 25th, 2019 08:48 am
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KKK and Confederate Flag Cooler. Photo by Sam Singleton-Freeman.

KKK and Confederate Flag Cooler. Photo by Sam Singleton-Freeman.

Hate is not only devastatingly traumatic to those on the receiving end, it’s destructive to those doing the hating. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Still, hate is an undeniably powerful and seductive emotion. It incites people to action, even to violence. It is regularly put to use for political gain. America is getting toxic daily doses.

Given the disturbing conditions in our society and the vacuum of moral leadership at the highest levels of our government, I feel an obligation to come to my country’s aid and do everything I can to counter the forces of division, bigotry and hate that threaten to rip the fabric of our society to shreds. After decades working as a government watchdog and democracy reform advocate, it’s quite a shift of focus for me professionally to take on the challenge of becoming We Are Many-United Against Hate’s executive director. The group was started in late 2016 by Masood Akhtar, a Muslim American from India who was alarmed by proposals to establish a Muslim registry in the U.S. as well as a Muslim travel ban.

What We Are Many-United Against Hate already has achieved as an all-volunteer operation is being recognized nationally. The FBI director recently gave Akhtar the agency’s Community Leadership Award. Akhtar’s efforts also were saluted by the Southern Poverty Law Center with a Certificate of Appreciation for his contributions to the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America. His name was added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama to provide inspiration to all those who choose to take a stand against hatred.

What makes We Are Many-United Against Hate unique and special is that it doesn’t just express righteous indignation after each new eruption of hate-fueled violence and condemn the perpetrators from afar. It works to overpower hate one act of common decency at a time. When Baraboo high school students were photographed making a Nazi salute, We Are Many-United Against Hate went to Baraboo to help organize a community-wide response. Akhtar repeatedly traveled to Baraboo to plan actions with the superintendent, high school principal, mayor and other community leaders.

Two other leaders of We Are Many-United Against Hate — one a former white supremacist organizer and the other an ex-police officer whose father was killed in the mass shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek in 2012 — made powerful joint presentations as part of a series of events aimed at promoting understanding, healing, reconciliation and redemption.

This is a shining example of We Are Many-United Against Hate’s approach. But it is just one example. In repeated instances in communities far from Baraboo, the same kinds of interventions are made. Sometimes it’s done in the schools. Other times in community forums. Even one-on-one counseling and mentoring.

That same spirit is reflected in the public policies We Are Many-United Against Hate is promoting. The group’s recommended policies don’t concentrate on punishing acts of hate. Instead of dwelling on symptoms, they address the root causes of hate. For example, large segments of our nation’s population are feeling left behind, watching their employment automated out of existence, struggling to make ends meet as their standard of living erodes. When jobs paying a living wage are hard to come by, immigrants and racial minorities get scapegoated even when the primary culprits are automation and globalization. Robots don’t become the targets of hate, people do.

The grotesque economic inequality in America today is a breeding ground for hate and a recruiting tool for hate groups. That’s why We Are Many-United Against Hate calls for policies offering protection to vulnerable workers, such as living wage guarantees and a pilot program testing the effectiveness of a Universal Basic Income program.

We need a new social contract, a covenant between us describing what we all are called to do for our country and each other. We need to celebrate differences, honor America’s heritage of openness to foreigners and promote religious tolerance. We need to figure out how to have civil conversations and build solid relationships with those we currently count as enemies. We need to face down our greatest national demon—race. We need to overpower hate. One act of common decency at a time.

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner

Mike McCabe is the executive director of We Are Many-United Against Hate, a nonpartisan organization of common people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular, seeking equal protection for all, united against hate, bigotry and racism. The group’s website is united-against-hate.org.

5 thoughts on “Op Ed: No Nation Built on Hate Can Be Great”

  1. Charlie Mithell says:

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  2. weitenma83 says:

    Why is Baraboo even an issue? There was no hate involved with the Baraboo photo. Were the students asked to do a Nazi salute? Would they have known what to do if they had been asked? Would their parents have known how to do a Nazi salute? The fact is a large group of middle school students tried to follow a photographer’s instruction to “look like you’re waving farewell”. The result was mixed, and then misinterpreted before any one involved was given a chance to explain. I’m sure if someone took a picture in my church when we are praying over people as a congregation with our arms extended that someone would interpret that as a Nazi salute, too. We need to focus on real hate and hate groups.

  3. mkwagner says:

    Actually, weitenma83, we need to examine all aspects of our culture that communicate dominance and fear mongering. I attended a church that also used a raised right hand when praying over another. That is until we explored what that gesture actually communicated. Many, particularly older members were uncomfortable with the gesture. It did feel like the nazi salute. They now raise both both hands with palms up or cupped as if placing them on the head of the individual being prayed over.

    My point is that as white Americans, we are extremely ignorant of how our “harmless” gestures and jokes and sayings communicate domination and fear to peoples we have exploited. Intent does not matter! It’s time we stop being so ignorant and start being more considerate those who have a different perspective.

  4. Thomas Mott says:

    mkwagner: I say that weitenma83 is perfectly reasonable in his/her comment. You posit that raising one’s hand in a group setting is a sign of dominance and fear mongering? Before we assign some evil motive, might we consider the context and the nature/attitude of the person in charge, as it were? As I understand it now, it’s a photographer in a small town celebratory setting who was asked by parents to take a photo and wanted the kids to show some emotion rather than standing like so many fence posts; in this case by waving at the camera for a second or two.

    Intent certainly DOES matter! Hugely, actually. Consider: If, instead of middle schoolers shouting out and waving as part of an unrehearsed gathering for a moment or two, we were looking at a group that came to Baraboo or gathered there to support some white nationalist ignoramuses and no-goodniks, I’m wanting them shamed and rejected and turned away from their gathering by the authorities. Tell me, please, that you can distinguish between these two scenarios.

    Can we focus on keeping the REAL haters out of the spotlight they seek instead knee-jerking about good people allegedly acting badly (which they were NOT). It’s an indictment of today’s journalism that reporters were all too eager to stir up a ruckus instead of looking objectively into what actually happened.

    https://www.wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrepublic/news/local/baraboo-photographer-of-nazi-salute-image-says-he-told-boys/article_2a77dd8f-fa1e-52f3-851e-fb2ec18c2ab0.html

    If we take your point of view, should we not ask an audience at a meeting about transportation, “raise your hand if you drove to the meeting tonight instead of taking a bus or bike or simply walking from your home”. What about the Democratic POTUS candidates raising their hands when asked if they would support undocumented immigrants receiving government-financed health care benefits? How many of them were looking for the opportunity to display their Nazi leanings on network TV?

    On another level, if I am a so-called white American (which is no one’s business) are you saying that I along with everyone (or even MOST) like me and some of my extended family (those that ARE “white”) are “ignorant” about “how our ‘harmless’ gestures and jokes and sayings communicate domination and fear to peoples we have exploited.” I categorically and not ignorant of that and I resent you labeling me and others I know and respect that way. And am I an “exploiter”now, too?

    Molehill, meet Mountain, for it appears you are being converted into one.

  5. TransitRider says:

    Weitenma83:

    The Baraboo photo is clearly NOT just kids “waving farewell”. If it were, someone would be waving his left arm instead of his right.

    Likewise, Thomas Mott, this doesn’t look like kids just “raising their hand”—besides an absence of any left hands raised, the arms are all thrust forward as well as up with almost all elbows locked. Normal “hand raising” would include many bent elbows, left hands, and arms more upward than outward.

    Also note the kid in the 1st row (4th from the left) who is not raising his arm but instead making the “OK” sign with his thumb and forefinger, a gesture that has been adopted by white nationalists.

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