However much President Trump attempts to deny his racist rhetoric over the years has not spurred white supremacist violence, the unbiased listener to his speeches and tweets would abjure such puerile and coarse defence. But it is not just the US president who resorts to stirring up the baser instincts of people — in this [...]


Hate speech and racism trigger violence


However much President Trump attempts to deny his racist rhetoric over the years has not spurred white supremacist violence, the unbiased listener to his speeches and tweets would abjure such puerile and coarse defence.

But it is not just the US president who resorts to stirring up the baser instincts of people — in this case Americans. Those who have followed the verbal onslaughts of some of Sri Lanka’s rabble-rousers parading in the guise of ‘nationalists’ or of religious fanatics would realise how vile they have been, insulting the most fundamental precepts of the great teacher they vow to follow.

With Sri Lanka and the US heading for presidential elections in the coming months, we are most likely to hear from political platforms their hate speech and racist rhetoric raised by several decibels.

After the recent back-to-back mass killings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, it would require a total suspension of disbelief to concur with Trump that he is as innocent of incendiary rhetoric as a new born child.

Either the US president has a conveniently short memory that he cannot remember by dusk what he had tweeted at dawn that day or he deliberately ignores the gross insults that he hurls at foes and friends alike.

Never in recent American history has the US been saddled with a president who has been ready to resort to hate speech and racist vocabulary to attract into his fold those ready to subscribe to his racist ideology that white is right and white is might.

It was just a few weeks back that Trump called four non-white congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from. Trump is ready to resort to any ruse, any factual distortion and lie to drive home his anti-immigrant policies and hatred towards non-whites and whip up the same sentiments among America’s white community.

The truth is that all four Congresswomen are US citizens and three of them were born in the US. The fourth is an immigrant from Africa who is now a US citizen as Gotabaya Rajapaksa was until he renounced his citizenship the other day but Basil Rajapaksa still is.

If Trump did not know these facts about the four women in Congress he could have had them checked by any of that vast staff that infests the White House before uttering such damnable untruths. Nor has his staff pointed out the error after Trump first said so in public.

The fact that Trump repeated this at the campaign meeting with his faithful white audience shouting “send her back” like a well-trained chorus is surely a sign that Trump does not allow facts to get in the way of his rabid anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate speech.

Some US media have pointed out the distortions of fact or lies that Trump constantly utters. One prominent newspaper had gathered more than 8,000 such errors. If the US is saddled with such a president to whom facts are an unnecessary burden as it seems to be to his supporters it is reflection on the type of voter that backs him.

But then he is not the only racist around. Sri Lankans have seen the rise of racism and hate speech in their own country. The difference is that in Sri Lanka, the bigotry often comes from the mouths of some who have accepted the teachings of the Buddha — principles that should have instilled in them ahimsa, nonviolence and the great gift of tolerance.

Instead what the Sri Lankan people find to their horror is that some of these ‘disciples’ of the Buddha appear to have shed those principles of tolerance and non-violence for a path that is a rejection of what they vowed to faithfully follow earlier.

One wonders whether the coming presidential election in Sri Lanka will arouse the so-called Sinhala Buddhist ‘nationalism’ and the condemnation of minority communities.

The Easter Sunday terrorism has played into the hands of these individuals who have now found a new peg on which to hang their nationalism. It is not that anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence are anything new.

One might recall the Aluthgama clashes in which at least three persons were killed and damage done to Muslim houses and businesses. People have not forgotten the ‘involvement’ of some Buddhist monks in those violence clashes in 2014. Digana was yet another site of Sinhala-Muslim clashes.

In the latter half of last year there was an unsavoury incident when a safe house in Mt Lavinia for Rohingya Muslim refugees awaiting repatriation under UNHCR protection was attacked. This attack was led by a monk and a group called Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (Sinhalese National Movement).

Meanwhile, in Mawanella some Buddha statues were desecrated by some misguided Muslims which only provoked Buddhists to action against members of the Muslim community.

Sri Lanka has gone through three decades of terrorism and war with several thousands of people of all communities killed and the country debilitated. The post-war period should have been a period of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

Instead, the government, which promised to strengthen the nation and rebuild it on a value system that promotes equality for all and would bring peace and tranquility to a battered and divided country, has spent more of its time on quarrelling with each other in a struggle for power.

This country can well do without the visceral denunciation and hatred of others’ thoughts and opinions that is spreading fast thanks to the helping hand of political leaders.

In May, Galagoda-Aththe Gnanasara Thera who was sentenced to six years imprisonment by court on charges including contempt was pardoned by President Sirisena after serving a few months.

There is no need to introduce Gnanasara Thera, for his activities are well known. But that the president used his prerogative and power to pardon him after such disgraceful behaviour is not only a misuse of the power of pardon but an insult to the judges and the court.

The message that this presidential action conveys is that the monk’s conduct is acceptable. He can continue with hate speech and verbal bullying not only of minorities but Sinhala Buddhists as well.

Amercia’s founding fathers wrote in their Declaration that all men are born equal. Trump does not think so. Some Sri Lankans worship the Buddha and strive to live by his teachings. Unfortunately, some of those who we accept as the followers of those teachings do not believe all are equal. They prefer to discard some of humanity in the name of a false patriotism.

Many of these so-called patriots and heroes are false prophets. Their patriotism is hatriotism.


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