The lingua franca of politics throughout the world has become overwhelmed with hate, with politicians and leaders engaging in invective, name-calling, and expressions of disgust. Countries and leaders have not always liked other countries and leaders, to be sure, but the level of hostility that has become normative today is truly appalling. This has been true on the global level and has now poisoned the national scene as well.
America is experiencing unprecedented racial, sexual, religious, and social hostile rhetoric. Giving voice to hatred is now a tolerated form of expression and a regular part of the political dialogue, as exemplified and led largely by Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
Throughout the primaries and now the presidential contest, there has been an unheard of amount of vicious, ad hominem attacks. What we are witnessing is unimaginable: the nominees from the two major American political parties slamming each other with charges of bigotry and racism. In the past, minor or fringe parties and candidates — Alabama’s George Wallace, for example —may have sunk to that level, but rarely Republican or Democratic candidates.
Proper decorum and polite speech are virtually nonexistent, especially from the Trump campaign. While many of Trump’s supporters are attracted to his blunt, politically incorrect language, and advocating substantive changes in polices is a legitimate form of debate, the use of vile, hateful language is unacceptable. It is difficult to imagine White House meetings, State of the Union addresses, and presidential press conferences being conducted with this total lack of civility and manners.
Granted, in many parliamentary systems there is booing and hissing during legislative debate, but at least when they address even their enemies, it is always couched in the proper and genteel language of the “honorable gentleman” or “honorable lady.” Even in Congress during vituperative floor debates, members refer to each other as the “distinguished gentleman or lady.”
Hateful language does not begin or end with Trump. African-Americans, for example, are angry at society, at politicians, at the police. The Black Lives Matter movement began as a legitimate means of pushing back, motivated by discriminatory attacks against blacks by law enforcement authorities, the justice system, senseless police violence, and the murder of African-Americans. It has now morphed into a movement that expresses anger against the system with many of its enthusiasts totally unconstructive in their outrage.
Of late, the hate felt by some supporters of Black Lives Matter has moved into support for unrelated and hateful attacks against Israel and Jews. Some in the movement now support the BDS movement and are allying themselves with the Palestinians, making a pointless and gratuitous attack unrelated to any of their legitimate demands for change in the criminal justice system, a position at odds with a long history of black-Jewish cooperation and solidarity.
The “burkini movement,” especially in France, is a spillover from the spreading anti-Muslim feeling in Europe. Hatred of Muslims now entitles the French government to attack not bikinis — as is being done in Israel by Cultural Minister Miri Regev — but modest bathing suits worn by religious Muslim women. Invoking restrictions against such attire may indeed be forthcoming even in the United States, born of Islamophobia.
Hatred of members of the LGBT community is now prevalent and condoned in the course at political debate. Even after the shooting of a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during which 49 people were murdered, the focus was on the terror, with some circles ignoring the fact that the killing were motivated by hatred of the LGBT community expressed in radical Islam.
Jews, of course, are not immune to the hate. Like Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and others in Europe, Trump has failed to respond to anti-Jewish attacks against Jewish reporters and others by his supporters. Even gas chamber metaphors have not been condemned.
The problem with all this ugly speech is that it fuels more hate, encouraging extremism and violence. History is replete with examples of how hate has driven societies to seek leaders who will affirm these views, and the 2016 presidential election campaign is flowing right into this morass.