The Disunited|Hates of America

     I was consumed by hatred for several years, and it didn’t do me any good.
     So I’m alarmed about my country.
     Thirty-some years ago I met some Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had quit my job as a schoolteacher and gone to work as a paralegal in U.S. immigration prisons, trying to save victims of rape and torture from being deported to their torturers and rapists.
     I met about 3,000 Central American refugees, one on one, and interviewed them at length.
     I came to hate the people who had done that to them. Not just the Salvadoran and Guatemalan generals and colonels, but President Ronald Reagan, Ambassador John Negroponte, Elliott Abrams and their fellow war criminals.
     I was doing human rights work, willingly, for 50 cents an hour, and I was consumed by hatred, through 80-hour weeks in poor border towns.
     Do you know what my hatred got me? It got me a serious drinking problem is what it got me. And that’s all it got me.
     I could have done that work without hating anybody. All my hatred did was eat me up and ruin my life. It took me years to figure that out.
     I don’t blame anyone for it but myself.
     When the third millennium rolled around, and George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their war criminals waged more dishonest, insane wars on the other side of the planet, I did what I could again, but I had the sense not to ruin myself with hatred.
     Hatred never did anyone any good in the history of the world. Name one time it did.
     That’s why I’m worried about our country. In my 65 years on Earth, I’ve never seen so much hatred in a presidential campaign.
     The first time I voted, in 1972, I didn’t vote against Nixon because I hated him. I voted against him because I thought his policies were wrong, and because my college-educated, white butt was on the line, and I didn’t want it shot off in Vietnam for a cause that was not even a cause — that was just an excuse — for what? For a way to get elected?
     Hatred has nearly always been appealed to in our presidential campaigns: hatred of Negroes, of immigrants, of the Irish and Italians — damned Catholics!
     But never in my lifetime has a presidential campaign been based so firmly upon hatred of so many people — immigrants, Mexicans, federal judges, uppity women, Arabs, Muslims, any foreigner at all — Fill In The Blank.
     Donald Trump said he wants to torture people: not with his own hands, of course. He wants other people to do it for him — for us.
     I guarantee you: Trump has never talked about torture with its victims face to face, or with torturers. I have. And let me tell you something else: apart from the pain inflicted, torture is worse for the torturers than it is for the victims. Trust me on this.
     Hillary Clinton — perhaps the clumsiest politician who ever will be elected president — made a big mistake last week when she called half of Trump’s supporters deplorable.
     A good politician doesn’t insult people she wants to vote for her. But Hillary Clinton is not a good politician. She’s the smartest girl in the class, and works harder than anyone else, and it shows, so lots of people in the class don’t like her.
     That’s a whole ‘nother thing, though, than making a campaign pledge that “If elected, I will order my underlings to torture people.” In words to that effect.
     Torture who — for what? What good would it do?
     About 40 percent of the United States — 130 million people, give or take — prefer Trump to Clinton. That’s fine with me. What’s not fine is that so many of them, and their candidate, are stirring up so much hatred, against so many people — for what?
     That’s really dangerous, for our country and for the world. Hillary did it in a slip. Trump does it as strategy.
     “Hatred is a swordfish,” Pablo Neruda wrote, “it swims in deep waters.”
     Be careful when swimming in deep waters, my countrymen. You never know what you might stir up.

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