Monday, September 9, 2019

Hate: It Breaks My Heart

Annamaria on Monday

Six years ago today, almost exactly - eight months into President Obama's second term, I wrote a blog about hope.  It said that racism was not dead, but at that time it looked to me as if it had been dealt a heavy blow.  I would like to think that is still the case. But recently hate-mongering - in my own country and around the world - has taken on an ugliness, an intransigence that freezes my blood.

So many of the people whose hearts and souls are now gripped by hate are otherwise like me: white and working class.  But they seem to have forgotten the hardships and threats their own grandparents and great grandparents suffered.  As a reminder to them, and to people at large, I offer my own family's story.

I am not the coal miner's daughter.  But I am the coal miner's granddaughter.  Andrea Puglisi, my father's father, immigrated to the United States in the beginning of the Twentieth Century, from the hill town of Solarino, in the province of Siracusa, Sicily.

EXACTLY like many if not most of the immigrants who come to the United States today, Andrea came for economic reasons.  Also like today's immigrants, he came willing to do a difficult, thankless, and his case dangerous job for an opportunity to support his family.  The US then, as it certainly does today, NEEDED immigrant laborers to do those jobs that not enough Americans were willing to do.  

Also EXACTLY like today, there were people (read: bigots) who hated the immigrants because they were the wrong religion, ethnicity, or spoke the wrong languages. My father described for me the welcoming committee Andrea and his family found in Western Pennsylvania.

My American-born father was about three, just tall enough to stand and see out of the window.  The family lived in two rooms of housing that belonged to the mining company.  On the night in question, his father was in the front room, sitting in a chair in front of the closed bedroom door, with his hunting weapons - a rifle and shotgun across his lap.  My grandmother and the children were hiding in the bedroom.

The little boy, who I am grateful to say grew up to be my father, looked out the bedroom  window and saw crosses burning on the mountain.  Men in white wearing masks and hoods circled the house on horseback.  They carried ropes and guns and shouted epithets - anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-Italian hate speech.  Red-blooded American terrorists out to cleanse their country of the vermin who were my grandparents, my father, my aunts and uncles.  And also of my grandfather's fellow immigrant coal miners from various countries.

Many blood descendants of those targets of hate still live in Western Pennsylvania and through no fault of their own, by 2016 had become long unemployed former coal miners.  In the latest Presidential election, out of desperation, they believed Donald Trump's false promises about reopening the mines and giving them back their jobs.  They voted for Trump and by doing so, tipped their state in his favor.  By winning Pennsylvania, Trump won  the election.  Those grandchildren of despised immigrants had put themselves in league with the hate-soaked moral descendants of the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists exactly like the ones who had spewed venom upon their grandfathers and grandmothers, their infant fathers and mothers and their aunts and uncles.

They have helped to elect a person who uses hate as a tool for his own personal political gain.  This is an American story, but it is not exclusively an American phenomenon.

Hate.  I can't seem to feel it toward any person.  That hated, vilified, terrified little boy who grew up to be my father taught me never to hate another person. Despite his own early experiences, he chose tolerance over hate in all its manifestations.  He made sure I would too. 

Here is what I can and do hate:  The ease with which human hearts can fill with hate against our fellow human beings.  How strong the roots of hate become once they imbed themselves in the minds of people.  How easy it is for morally bankrupt politicians to use hate to manipulate some sectors of the electorate.  The fearsome thought that hate will decide yet another United States election.

Hate.  It breaks my heart.       


  1. So true, Annamaria. I'm depressed that you, always positive, are discouraged.

    Sadly, we see it in South Africa too. Bad enough the ill feelings - often hate - between races, tribes, groups. We are now suffering through a wave of xenophobia where - like your grandfather - anyone who is foreign, or associated with foreigners, is a target. Attacks, looting, burning. Ten people are dead already. A good friend who is a (white) doctor and has his rooms downtown - where he treats mainly blacks at low rates - had his rooms burnt and lost everything. They lost their doctor.

    Why the hate? I think, like your coal miners, when you have no job and no hope you need to search out who is to blame. The answer is usually whoever seems to be doing okay, is different in some way, and is reachable. Maybe no one is to blame. Or worse, you yourself are to blame. Those are not acceptable answers for many people, however.

    1. One of the problems in South Africa is that immigrants from other African countries are better educated than many South Africans - for a variety of reasons, most of which are tied to the apartheid legacy. So South Africans hire the immigrants over locals; and immigrants successfully start small businesses. I cry for the locals who were shafted by our previous government and are now being shafted by the influx of better-educated immigrants. Although I understand the frustrations, I cannot condone the violence to persons or property. However, it sometimes take this sort of protest to change things.

  2. Not depressed exactly, Michael. But afraid about the next election here. Many of my friends, like me passionately progressive, are attacking Democratic hopefuls from the left. The way they did Clinton in the last election. Others say they will not vote for another man. Or white person. But, my untutored view is that, like the last time around, it will be the likes of those unemployed coal miners, the natural allies of the Democratic Party, who will decide the election. Swing voters, we call them these days. They need to be considered. Heavily. But many passionate Democrats do not see that our party has to appeal to them, bring them back under the tent so to speak. I am worried that the Dems will run a candidate that ignores this reality. Scary!

    1. I fear you may be right. I have a "hedge" bet on the result - that Trump will win. Then I win either way!

  3. Yes, but I worry about all the myriad losers if Agent Orange wins again.

  4. I agree, I hate hate. But I hate laziness even more. If you're lacking in intelligence, okay, it's hard to make good choices. But when you make bad choices, letting your emotions sway your decisions without thinking things through, when you choose not to do things you know you should do, just because it takes a little energy, when you fail to learn from history, then YOU are the problem, and YOU are causing problems for everyone else. You're not being stupid, you're being an idiot for letting your laziness ruin the future like a turd in a punch bowl. Most people are smart enough to make better decisions, they just can't be bothered.

    "Swing voters" always cause my teeth to ache. Learn to think, to evaluate, to reason. It's not that hard.

  5. I think we disagree here for the very first time in these precincts, EvKa. I see the lives of those men much differently. For some, choices were eliminated pretty much when the sperm hit the egg and they inherited average IQs and then were born into a world of meritocracy without the requisite potential for higher education. I doubt very much that, when they had jobs in coal mines or steel mills, those swing voters were what you would call lazy. Undereducated, very likely, but that is very likely not their fault. They left school at 16 and went down the mine, like their fathers and uncles before them. Because that’s what men “like them” did. Other ambitions were to them as unicorns are to us. Myths only fools thought were real.

    At the very least, we must all understand that—even if we hate them for their lack of get up and go—they have the right to vote. And they very likely will. If we want a different President next year, we will ignore those “lazily-good-for-nothings” to our peril.

    1. I wasn't clear, I wasn't referring to those under-educated-because-they-couldn't-afford-the-time-or-money-to-get-educated people. I was referring to the folks today who've somehow made it through high school and are still unwilling to apply the brains they have to the problems at hand. It doesn't take Einstein to realize that DJT is (was) a very bad choice (for anything...). Yet, somehow, a dump-truck load of idiots came to the conclusion that he WAS. And, now, they get interviewed on TV, and say, "Wull, I voted for him last time, but I sure ain't going to THIS time, because...[insert choice of ruined jobs, healthcare, etc. that has resulted] In my mind, it's not a lack of education that lead to this contretemps, but rather an unwillingness to LOOK beyond their nose, voting (as usual) with their emotions rather than their REASONING.

      "Laziness" was perhaps the wrong characterization, perhaps "blind, mule-headed stubbornness" would be closer, but either way, it boils down to not LOOKING at the way the world works, how people work/behave. It's something that pretty much anyone is CAPABLE of, regardless of their IQ, you just have to watch the people around you instead of gazing at your navel all the time. But far too much of the population seem unwilling to do that.

      I agree that they have the right to vote. It doesn't mean I like the fact that they are one-issue voters who allow themselves to be manipulated because of that. I yield on the word 'lazy' (although I think it does apply to the use many of them make of their brains). Perhaps "small minded" might be more accurate, in the sense that they rarely look beyond their four walls.

      Ack, these are the kinds of things that take a few hours and several bottles of wine (or glasses of beer or fruit juice or your beverage of choice) to discuss.


  6. I think you really are my sis, raised as I was in Western PA ... and educated in coal country.

  7. Stan, how terribly sad! Th oppressed double punished. There is a US. corollary. As I am sure you know, many of the immigrants to the US come to us as Brain-Drain people with advanced degrees that they earned in tuition-free countries. Whereas the children of unemployed coal miners and any other disadvantaged American would have to go into heavy debt to get an undergraduate degree.

  8. Here is the Washington Post's analysis of the South African xenophobia issue. It's pretty clear that the current leadership has a lot to answer for also. And other African countries are starting to call them on it.

  9. Well, Annamaria, there are lots of white well-educated people who voted for and support Trump. Look at the Senate. Look at Fox TV. Have you heard any millionaires, billionaires, corporate heads, bankers, Wall Street moguls criticize Trump's racism and xenophobia? Even misogyny? Not really.
    Two neighbors voted for Trump, women. I was shocked. One waved away the misogyny stuff; it was the tax cuts she wanted. The other one is an anti-vaxxer and I think anti-science. I haven't discussed it more.
    It's a dilemma. The Dems aren't making people happy by limiting debates on the climate crisis, a major issue for everyone.
    Meanwhile, people are losing health insurance due to the whittling away at the ACA since Trumpism took over.
    There is a lot more to discuss on this and it will come out. If the economy tanks, there goes Trump unless he can wiggle his way out of it.