We live in a time of hate. It is expressed in daily cruelties, in rising tensions, and in brief but shocking flashes of violence.
This morning, three explosions ripped through Brussels, a city I lived in for four years. Two bombs went off in the airport, a place that remains bittersweet in my mind. For me, it was a place of joyous greeting and mournful parting. A third detonated in the Maelbeek subway station. The police estimate that at least thirty-one people have died, and that hundreds more are injured.
The people who planned and launched these attacks were motivated by hate. Hate of the amorphous, colonial West. Hate of Belgium, for its more concrete role in the coalition battling ISIS. Hate of a dozen other perceived offenders. But ISIS is not the only sources of hate in our lives today.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is running a campaign based almost solely on hate. His is a similarly directionless fury. Or perhaps, a multidirectional one, targeting Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, undocumented immigrants, people of color, refugees, and many more. He proudly incites violence against peaceful protesters. He at first refused to disavow the endorsement of the KKK, and never reigns in or criticizes the even more vicious hatreds of his followers.
Hate strips people of their humanity. It generalizes them, turns them into “supporters” of Western violence, or “terrorists.” Fighters from the Islamic State distributed candy to children in celebration of the Brussels attacks and justified the killings by labelling the victims “supporters” of the war effort. In response to the attacks, Donald Trump called once again for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. “We don’t know where they are coming from, we don’t know where they’re from, who they are… they could be ISIS, they could be ISIS related,” he said on FOX News this morning.
Donald Trump is not alone in this – he is joined by a host of Western bigots, including France’s Marine le Pen, Holland’s Geert Wilders, and Hungary’s Gabor Vona. Their hate, while less violent than that of the Islamic State, is nonetheless entirely inexcusable.
Hate feeds off of hate. There is nothing ISIS wants more than for Donald Trump to say something Islamophobic. There is nothing ISIS wants more than for Europe to begin to turn away refugees. Those actions, in turn, will only foster more hate against the West, and the cycle will continue. Donald Trump and those like him have a symbiotic relationship with ISIS. The more attacks ISIS commits, the more voters Trump gets. The more hatred Trump spews, the more recruits ISIS gets.
We cannot defeat hate with more hate. We cannot defeat ISIS by turning away refugees, closing mosques, or denigrating Muslims. And Donald Trump will not be stopped by any number of violent attacks.
Hate can only be stopped by a mass, human-centric movement. That is how it has always been. The hatred of racist whites in the United States was and continues to be beaten back by passionately nonviolent demonstrations of black Americans. It is not the images of suffering that turn people’s minds, but the images of perseverance. The assertion of humanity and the value of life. Martin Luther King Jr famously said that “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Similarly, all lives must be brought up to be valued equally. In a country where black lives are systemically devalued, Black Lives Matter is a movement towards equality. And when we look at the Brussels attacks, we must also be mindful of the victims of ISIS attacks in Ankara and elsewhere. The people of the Middle East are harmed by ISIS’ hate just as much as the people of the West. To reject them is a mistake – we must reach out to them in solidarity.
We live in a turbulent time, a time of hate. But the radical events we see today are not just causes for mourning, and not just threats to our way of life. They are opportunities to reassert humanity and the value of life. Momentous changes are on the horizon, but whether they will be motivated by hate or love is up to us.
If we reject refugees, ban Muslims, and continue to perpetrate violence, then it is neither Americans nor Europeans nor Arab civilians under ISIS’ rule that will benefit. Only hate and its agents will triumph. Giving in to the desire to lash out is to surrender to hate.
If we accept refugees with open arms, establish meaningful connections with the Muslim communities in our countries, and work towards peace, then we will not need to identify who benefits by nationality. A human-centric movement based on the fundamental tenets of love and the value of life is a victory over hate for all people. How each one of us responds to this time of hate has the potential to ruin us, but also the potential to save us.