Hate isn't a two-way street. Nor is it bipartisan or nonsectarian or colorless or genderless.
Hate is a one-way, fast track to chaos. And it seems Americans — and perhaps some Chattanoogans — are being seduced into that black hole of everyone hating everyone — even people who look and talk and walk just like them.
* Witness the swastikas found Sunday morning on Chattanooga's historic Walnut Street Bridge and parts of the Bluff View Art District.
* Witness the QAnon appropriation of #SavetheChildren with homemade signs on highway overpasses and around some Chattanooga neighborhoods during the summer. Witness then the QAnon Aug. 22 rally here.
The FBI has labeled QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat, and the Save the Children organization has said it is not associated with the hashtags by the same name.
But in the rally here where some participants carried heart-tugging "save the children" signs, the louder talk was more along the lines of a secret cabal takwing over the world and Democrats wanting to disarm the police — which they don't. A speaker and a group of others carried assault rifles and wore Hawaiian shirts, signifying they were part of the "Boogalou Boys" militia — a group associated with white supremacists.
"Militia" is their word — being preferable in their view to the label of "vigilante" which has more aptly been applied to them by experts.
Just Security, based at the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, headlined a recent story about QAnon this way: "QAnon is a Nazi Cult, Rebranded."
Even Facebook has banned violent "boogaloo" groups and removed 790 QAnon groups, restricted another 1,950 groups related to the QAnon conspiracy group, and more than 10,000 accounts on Instagram related to it.
* Witness the pushback some folks have offered to Deborah Levine's column on this page Friday reminding us of the 1939 "Pro-American" rally of the German American Bund, an organization that supported Hitler's fascism and held Nazi-like summer camps recruiting young white followers. That audience 81-years-ago sported swastika arm bands, and the organizations' vigilantes wore uniforms much like those of Nazi Germany's storm troopers.
Without pointing locally, but rather to national events, Levine also reminded us that we're seeing more and more of that again today in places liked Kenosha, Portland or Milwaukee, or other American cities experiencing racial clashes involving Boogaloo Boys or Proud Boys.
She could have, but didn't, mention Charlottesville, where white supremacists of many names marched around a statue of Robert E. Lee in protests of calls to take it down. They chanted: "You will not replace us, Jews will not replace us." The next day, one of them plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one young woman.
But, clearly, we've seen this manifestation of hate here, too. And it has its roots in fear of otherness.
We even see the precursors of it in recent stories about a Signal Mountain middle school English teacher who removed two novels — Black novels about Black struggles — from her class. Parents had complained, she said, that the "content in the books may be inappropriate for some of our students."
Then why is it comfortable for Black children to read white novels about white struggles? About the Civil War "fought for states' rights?" Why is the classic about Snow White, not Pepper Black? Please read David Cook's excellent Sunday column about the Signal Mountain discomfort with "being uncomfortable."
Perhaps Chattanooga's even-handed approach to several days of protests by Black Lives Matter and others in the wake of George Floyd's death under the knee of a police officer prompted the extra Nazi attention here. If one side gets a stage, all sides want one.
But that simply brings us back to the point where we started. Hate isn't a two-way street. It isn't reserved for Democrats or Republicans. It's not open only to the religious or the non-religious. It's not exclusive to Nazis or Jews, white supremacists or Black Lives Matter, this nationality or that, gay or straight, men or women.
No matter who foments it — "us" or "them" — it won't hurt just one faction of any of us. It will hurt us all. Each of us. Until we reach out for each other and wholly refuse it.