Hatriotism--according to the website Urbandictionary.com--means proving your patriotism by hating someone just because a government, politician, or a self-appointed artbiter of social or moral issues deems it appropriate. A person on either side of the political fence can certainly be a hatriot, but the term generally applies to staunch right-wing supporters who believe anyone who is non-white, non-Christian or non-heterosexual to be, well, a force of evil.
They hate Muslims because every one of them is obviously a terrorist, regardless of the fact that many have lived in this country for decades and have assimilated themselves into mainstream communities, are respected business owners and effective community leaders. They dislike women who join the Me Too or Time's Up movements because they are trying to discredit respectable men. They especially dislike the women who participate in the Women's Marches because, even though the goal of the marches are to bring attention to issues that women around the world still struggle to overcome, they see it as an international referendum on the Donald Trump presidency.
They dislike minorities because they see them as lazy and a drain on the nation's entitlement programs, even though 40 percent of SNAP recipients are white compared to 26 percent African American, 10 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian and 1 percent Native American, according to Newsweek. They hate immigrants, legal or illegal, because they believe that they come to this country simply to obtain welfare, even though U.S. law dictates that any person receiving any entitlements must, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have proof of U.S. citizenship.
But in the last year or so, the definition of hatriot is expanding to include a much wider category. This includes those who supposedly do not show enough respect for the flag, military or the national anthem, those who believe differently from our own views, and--most of all--those who do not support Donald Trump.
Hatriotism is a favorite tool of radio pundits, most notably those on the far right. And although its very definition may seem incompatible with Christian ideals, it has been used for the last two decades to make powerful gains among evangelical Christians. Evangelism has become almost synonymous with conservative politics, so much so that, at times, it is difficult to see where one begins and the other ends.
It seems ironic that the very group that shuns drinking, dancing and even R-rated movies will happily look the other way when a pundit such as Rush Limbaugh uses vulgar language or promotes misogyny or racism. They justify it by claiming that if he "speaks the truth," what does it matter how it is delivered? As a lifelong Christian, it seems to me a slap in the face to all that Christianity is supposed to represent. But it is an outlet that some politicians have been eager to exploit, and never has it been more evident than in the last presidential election.
And is getting bigger. And louder. In the Huffington Post column, "The Politics of Hate", Dr. Dustin Swanger, president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, describes how the hatred has found a willing audience in today's political climate and a poster boy under Donald Trump. "It seems that we have more than a few — well, let’s call them leaders — who are fanning the fires of hatred for one cause or another. Using tactics like yelling your message loudly — because if you’re loud, you must be right or pointing a finger at a group of people and telling us (loudly) that they are the cause of trouble and we should put them in their place. Encouraging violence among crowds to settle disputes or to make a point is becoming the norm in our country."
And this behavior did not stop on the campaign trail. His unwillingness to put a stop to the hate politics that helped him get elected was never more evident than when a protester was killed at at a white nationalist rally in Charlotte, NC last year by a known member of the Alt-Right movement. When Trump initially gave a statement, rather than condemn the white supremacy movement in the United States, he declared that there were "really great people" on both sides of the protest and practically blamed the anti-hate marchers for starting the entire incident. He later issued a statement condemning hate groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis and Alt-Right, but not before these groups erupted in euphoria on social media at what they perceived as his initial support for their actions.
What is most frightening, according to Swanger, is how readily a large proportion of the population responded to these tactics and happily elected one of the biggest perpetrators of hatriotism to the highest office of this country. Trump declared all Mexicans to be rapists, advocated physical violence to protesters at his rallies, and pretty much summed up his policy toward women with his "grab 'em by the pussy" statement. All this was did was earn him the adoration of millions of voters to the point where he could have, as Trump himself so eloquently put it, killed someone and he would still get the votes of this segment of the population. And why?
Quite simply, they are angry. "They are mad at the government. They are mad at the police. They are mad at the wealthy. They are mad at each other. They are just plain mad. It is easy to whip mad folks into a tither with the tactics discussed earlier. Hate and anger are strong emotions. They are forceful motivators. And, for many, whether they are right is of little consequence," said Swanger.
Regardless of the fact that this misled segment of the American public believes they have a right to embrace hate, it needs to stop. If history has taught us anything, it is that this sort of behavior in a civilized society will lead to its destruction. Throughout history, from Rome to the Third Reich, societies that embrace animosity and violence will eventually self-destruct.
But the solution will not be an easy one. It will require people of character, those who oppose hateful narrative and reject bigotry and misogyny, to stand up against it. Our leaders can no longer simply tow the party line but must speak out against beastly behavior and derogatory comments toward marginalized groups, even if it means speaking out against those in their own party. And we the people must elect leaders of integrity to our highest offices as well, not just bullies and egomaniacs who "speak their mind."
Most people I know are appalled by the rise of the "hatriots." And I am calling on all of you who oppose the divisive rhetoric, insulting tweets, childish name-calling and overall immature behavior of our so-called "leaders" who cater to the ignorance of these haters to speak with both your voices and your votes in upcoming elections. If history also teaches us anything, it is that good and right will eventually prevail. But the battle may be a costly one, and it will not be easy.
It entails putting yourself out there and making yourself vulnerable to the haters. Since early last year, I decided to be as neutral as I could regarding political issues on my own social media sites so as not to offend family or friends. But recent events and the continued decline of civility and decency from my fellow citizens has showed me I can be silent no more.
As Dr. Swanger points out, "In a country as wealthy as the United States to leave so many of our people uneducated, so easily led down a path of violence, is not worthy of our history, of our founding fathers, and of our people." Let's take a lesson from other so-called great societies that fell prey to their own propensity for violence and hateful rhetoric. Before the United States of America is no more than a lesson in the history books.