By PRITAM K. ROHILA, Ph.D.
Acrimony and nastiness have been hallmarks of the recent presidential election campaign in the United States. Divisive ideas, which were being propagated by hosts of a handful of talk radio and cable TV channels, became mainstreamed. Opponents were demonized, and differences among Americans were accentuated. Suspicion, anger and hate became widespread.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded a 14 percent increase in the number of hate groups in the country in 2015. In its 2016 report, released in late November, it counted almost 900 incidents of harassment and intimidation in a variety of settings, all directed against immigrants, minority individuals and related institutions. Even children, disabled individuals and houses of worship were not spared.
New York Police Department has noted a 115 percent increase in hate crimes in New York City. According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, in parts of the county, there was a 24 percent rise in hate crimes, mostly targeting minorities, and there was 69 percent increase in hate crimes just against Latinos.
The FBI reported 5,850 hate crimes in the United States, last year. Muslims and Muslim-appearing individuals were targeted on 263 occasions, the second highest number on record, trailing only the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks backlash. Many Muslim women have experienced hijab-grabbing incidents. In some cases, even Muslim police officers were victimized.
It is ironic that all this is happening in a nation where the Statue of Liberty, the internationally-renowned icon of freedom, has welcomed immigrants from all over the world, and a nation that has so frequently highlighted human rights violations in other parts of the world.
Let us hope that the divisiveness, which has marked the recent elections, does not pit some Americans against other Americans and minorities in the country continue to enjoy rights and protections enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Regardless of who occupies the White House, and which political party dominates Congress, we must continue to uphold and abide by the many international covenants we have endorsed, and the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the U.S Constitution.
In the spirit of reconciliation and brotherly love, we must combat divisiveness and bigotry, as some churches across the country did with their communion services on the election-day this year, and as two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups recently did to form an unprecedented partnership.
(Dr. Pritam Rohila, of Keizer, is a retired neuropsychologist. He can be reached at email@example.com.)