Confined to a maximum security prison for over four decades gives you a close and personal relationship with the emotion we call hate. This negative energy is palpable. It takes root like some pervasive weed that feeds off of itself like a perpetually self generating entity that consumes everything around it. It is only with vigilance and forthright determination that permits a few to escape its hold.
As I sit in my cell watching the news, I am so amazed that this entity that grows and survives so readily in our prisons has now made it into the everyday lives of free society.
We are living through socially and politically polarized times. We sadly find that hatred has quickly grown and became the acceptable organizing factor in our country. We threw aside party affiliations and, in their place, we became a divided country with people defined by who they hate. No longer are we Republicans or Democrats. Instead, we find ourselves under new labels.
Now you are an ultra liberal socialist democrat or a far right ultra conservative republican. You gain power, notoriety, and privilege simply through scapegoating others for the ills in your life. You become part of a team, where winning at all costs is all that matters. Tribalism is fueled by impassioned hatred of anyone not of your group. This mentality feeds those who may be mentally imbalanced, but not actively looking to harm others and gives them quasi permission to act out violently against unsuspecting victims.
There are so many to blame for stoking the fires of hatred these past five years. So where do you start with the finger pointing? And isn’t pointing fingers how all of this started in the first place?
But something has to be done. We can start by denying air time and media coverage to those proven to have hate as their primary agenda. I remember as a child, going to the St. Louis Zoo. One of the more entertaining exhibits was a gorilla who, if you pointed and laughed enough, it would reward you with a well aimed piece of his still steaming feces right in your face. Oddly enough, he never made headline news on a daily basis.
Over 80 million United States voters spoke out in a loud, clear and united voice in November. They said it was time for the circus to pack up and leave town. That they wanted the daily reality show canceled, as if it were simply a worn out season of Jersey Shore.
Millions of Americans, tired of division, sickness and lies have declared it time for unity. A time for our country to regain, to demand the dignity and respect the United States once held on the world stage. It would be easy to say it has to start with those looking for the quick sound bite to say “hatemongers have had their five minutes, now let’s move on!”
In reality, it has to start at the top. President Biden has to continue his legacy of working across the aisle, seeking unification if only to lessen the division. He has to reach out to the people of the world as a leader, demonstrating the dignity of the office and assuring world leaders that the circus tents have been burned and the United States is again a respected world power.
But ultimately, it takes the integrity of all our media outlets, large and small to begin the healing process. Too many respected print and media outlets have resorted to tabloid style reporting, taking sides for ratings, discarding the time honored tradition of being the neutral voice of truth.
Remember investigative journalism, digging for the ‘truth’, to be first with the breaking story while protecting sources? Ever heard of something called the Cold War, Watergate, the Vietnam War or Iran/Contra? Those are just a few examples of investigative journalism at its finest. A time when Americans couldn’t wait for the Post, Times or National News. Remember when CNN actually had “Breaking News”?
Mass media, mass communication of the truth is how we heal our divided nation.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.