Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate. Only Love Can Do That.

In the 1940s, there was a famous quotation written by Martin Niemöller to protest the rise of Adolf Hitler and the growing trend of Nazism. It goes like this: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” In the wake of the all too common gun violence in America, specifically the recent horrific shooting in Orlando, and in the growing waves of the demagoguery and bigotry that is espoused daily by Republican Candidate Donald Trump, I feel compelled that now is my time to stand up and speak out.


As a nation, we have become partisan on a fundamental level. We are unable to listen to another opinion that does not align with our own. We sit and wait, desperate to hear something that will confirm or twist into our beliefs.  This is an incredibly dangerous way to live, and is the reason why Donald Trump is doing so well. Donald Trump appeals to the primitive fears in all of us. He has capitalized on the irrationality that exists within so many Americans, by simplifying all of the problems that our country and the world face with simple scapegoats.


For Donald Trump and his followers, it’s easy to blame all Muslims when someone who is Muslim hurts someone else. It is easy to blame all Muslims for all the crime and terror in the world. But the notion that all Muslims are terrorists is absurd, and Donald Trump is only stoking this fire. Donald Trump’s rise to power is all too eerily similar to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the 20th century. Hitler and Mussolini were able to capitalize on the fear and uncertainty in their countries when promising stability and guidance by blaming entire groups of people for their woes. Not enough people at the time understood the real and dangerous threat that these men posed, not only with their commentary but with their hateful rhetoric and scapegoating. For Hitler, it was the Jews. For Trump, it is the Muslims.


I recently watched a video of Donald Trump, where he argued that the mass shooting in Orlando would never have happened if the shooter’s parents hadn’t been let into the United States from Afghanistan years prior, simply because they were Muslim. Somehow Donald Trump has managed to demonize an entire religion as savage terrorists. For Trump to insinuate that somehow President Obama is complicit or involved in these terrorist attacks is despicable and is yet another mark that shows that insulting and disrespectful comments have no place in the Oval Office. Too many people have dismissed the growing onslaught of racist and bigoted comments made by Trump as his norm, but if bigotry has become a normal standard then we are in serious trouble.


The current political and partisan rhetoric has convinced us that we need to fear a terrorist attack where a bomb blows up in the street. This bomb could be (and according to the fanatics probably is) planted by a Syrian refugee who’s fleeing the terrorism that they came from. We should be more afraid of the terrorism that is so easily acquired in our midst. The terrorism that comes from the ability of a person who has a history of being abusive to his spouse and was investigated by the FBI twice, to still legally buy not only a semiautomatic pistol but also a military grade AR-15 rifle to then kill 50 innocent people and harm many more in a nightclub in Orlando. Gun violence and mass shootings in America should be considered terrorism regardless of who purchases the gun and who carries out the act. Terrorism is not a word that should be limited to someone of a specific faith.


We need to try to prevent this homegrown terrorism by making it harder for people to access these guns. This can be done by strengthening background checks and closing loopholes that allow practically any civilian to buy a military grade gun. These mass shootings have become all too common and all too comfortable. Yet, for some reason the same counter arguments persist: restricting guns would do nothing because if people want to get a gun they will find a way to access it, so why try? This argument applies for no other law or regulation. Sure, people will always find a way to kill each other, but we have a fundamental law in place that heavily discourages this through criminalization. Laws are in place for a reason, to prevent and protect people from doing bad things. Not everyone follows laws, but the vast majority of people do, and if they don’t, often they are stopped and checked by the penalties that are in place for those who don’t comply. If we faced every problem that arose in our country with the attitude that it’s too hard to do, we would live in lawless anarchy. Right now the system that allows the United States to be the only developed nation in the world to continually have mass shootings and prominent gun violence is flawed, and it is time to change it.


In times like these I am reminded of a passage that we studied during English class in my senior year of high school written by Dr. Martin Luther King. I can’t help but hear the words of Dr. King echo in and out of my ears: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” In times of uncertainty it is important not to use scapegoats to justify our fear. It is important not to use bigotry to explain our distress. Because hate coupled with hate only breeds animosity and contempt. Hate matched by action fueled by love has real power to change the conversation. We must say no to bigotry and violent words and instead stand together united and ready to evoke change.