I had a friend once, more of an acquaintance, who grew up in what was Yugoslavia. One day, this was in the ‘eighties, we were lolling about and I asked him if he was Serbian or Bosnian? Good gawd. He was so instantaneously incensed that he couldn’t talk. He spit nonsensical words and I truly thought that he might hit me. He fled the room and I sat completely bewildered at what had just happened.
It turned out that he was a Serb. He hated Bosnians. And I don’t mean the garden-variety hatred. I mean the kind of spur in your spleen that contaminates every thought and action with vitriol. In the one conversation we had about my question to him – I never dared broach the subject again – he said that his Grandfather hated Bosnians, his Dad hated them, and that, dammit, he hated them too. As far as he was concerned? These aren’t even human beings. He would feel worse about kicking a dog. So here I am, sitting in a nuclear plant where we are all vetted through a dozen layers of security probes and psychology tests, and this guy tells me with pride and with fire that, if he could get away with it, he would kill any fucking Bosnian that he could. And again, I’m sitting shaking my head, flabbergasted.
I haven’t a clue what it’s like to grow up with this kind of hatred poured into your soul every day. Neighbor kids an I got into fights when I was a kid but that was just entertainment and figuring out the pecking order. But the sense that those people are so different from you that they have no value as human beings is an infection that touches everything. It’s the Midas touch in reverse.
Of course, you know where this is going. I’ve been flabbergasted all over again by the abject hatred spewed by presidential candidates, people who I have admired, and many of my friends. I’ve successfully filtered most of the spewing from the social media sites that I follow and life is a little brighter. I haven’t any hope that this election will change anything. Neither Trump nor Clinton will accomplish anything that the other won’t or wouldn’t. Change is a decades old rolling cultural juggernaut and smart pols hop on board before they are run over. I’m convinced that this is the reason that President Obama ‘rethought’ his position on gay marriage.
So relax. Be nice to your friends. Play with your children today. Recognize that political parties, politicians, and the media all exist to sell you something. Buy if you want but consider it optional for a good life.
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