A nation of haters?

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer of advertising

Column by Robert Valentine, senior lecturer of advertising

So, all the other nations are concerned that the U.S. has become a nation of haters.

And, like people apparently everywhere, there are a number of people on our campus who are concerned that the country has become “polarized,” “divided,” “fragmented” and so forth. I’m sure it looks like that to some people.

What will happen and what will be done is a matter for time to sort out. You and I can have very little influence on policies in Washington or Frankfort, Kentucky, despite the many efforts of well-meaning people to march, demonstrate and organize.

Frankly, I don’t think America is any more or less hateful or mean-spirited today than it was on Nov. 7.  The election of Donald Trump, who seems to appeal to a few people who would like to isolate America from the world with walls and immigration policy, did not alter the personal feelings of anyone about neighbors, friends and countrymen.

The election was probably more of a reaction of people who were tired of being unemployed or tired of seeing a parade of politicians whose only real goal is reelection. The fact that this reaction ended up with Trump’s selection as chief executive of the national government was as much an unintended consequence as anything, probably.

The fact that he is attempting to do some of the rather silly things with which he entertained out-of-touch comedians, celebrities and news commentators should come as no surprise. His apparent grasp of employment, education, government, international trade and foreign relations continues to be entertaining, in a way, but not nearly as humorous as it was when he could not really hurt anyone.

However, it is saddening to see nice people on all sides of our political fences trying to take responsibility for all the pain, fear and confusion that is afflicting folks throughout the globe. Very few people have actually been affected by any political actions so far: no one has been deported, no one has been jailed, no wall has been built and no businesses have closed. Lots of people feel threatened, but so far . . .

It probably won’t take long before the current “bull in a china shop” strategy of political change does result in some real injury. That will be pretty sad, too. We all wish we could do something to prevent it, but the two principal parties gave us thin choices, and this is the result.

You can, however, take this to the bank: You are not a hater. You are the same person you were, and your friends – regardless of their political pronouncements and affiliations – are still the people who attracted your attention when you became friends. No political proclamation can make you fear someone just because he is a Muslim or a Mexican. No executive order can prevent you from according equal rights and respect to each gender or force you to fear and despise people who are grappling with their sexual identity.

You have to take responsibility for your feelings and beliefs. You’re in college, so part of your mission is to examine those beliefs, to test them and, once you are sure of them, to remain faithful to them in word and in deed. You have the opportunity and the resources to think deeply about these things and craft a path that will let you live your convictions.

If you want to do something, show your respect for others. Demonstrate your faith in equality. Share your confidence in what America really is. Let it shine.

Are we a nation of haters? Probably not. But we are a nation of people who have fears and insecurities, and those things sometimes bring out the worst in any of us. It’s hard not to be afraid and distrustful. Very hard.

But it’s not impossible and not permissible. It’s time for all of us to be who we think we are and to treat others as Americans should treat others – one fellow human being at a time.

You can do that. You should. You must.