An examination of what motivates hateful behavior and how to challenge it with positive and empathic attitudes and intercourse.
CNN commentator Kohn admits that her reputation for “being nice” has never been tested as much as during these days of anger, resentment, and Donald Trump–instigated abhorrence and bias. In questioning whether it’s actually possible for society to overcome hate, the author makes a compelling argument that though we may have become hate-prone, it’s never too late to reroute the course. She presents examples beginning with the ways and means of an aggressive band of internet trolls: complete strangers who “berate and belittle me on a daily basis” via her Twitter page. Though initiating purposeful contact with her nastiest detractors was initially futile, she humanized each of them and, in turn, condensed the root cause of their meanness as their essentialization of her as an opinionated, lesbian New Yorker. Kohn also places blame on social media platforms like Twitter, which affords trolls an expansive playing field from which to hate. In probing further, she consults with social scientists and experts on hate movements and travels across the globe to profile an ex–white supremacist and a former Middle Eastern terrorist to uncover how they’ve transformed their perceptions. The author then contrasts them with those who believe that acrimony based on differences is simply “human nature.” She also explores systemic bias fostered by faith institutions, media outlets, corporations, and politics. Quite movingly, Kohn owns her own incidents of hate by recalling (and atoning for) a cruel bullying incident in grade school. Finally, she presents a variety of universally applicable counteractions to hate—e.g., approaching dissenters with “emotional correctness” or communicating with mutual respect and compassion. The author’s passionate appeal for empathy provides a proactive springboard for readers who find themselves unable to comprehend the xenophobia and lack of civility in others.
An uplifting and inspiring plea to promote peace, kindness, and humanitarianism in the face of hate.