Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why Must We Demonize Those Who Disagree With Us?

While I was writing my Vietnam Seabee novel, Asphalt and Blood, I read a number of memoirs by former soldiers in the conflict. I was somewhat surprised to learn that the U.S. Army purposefully trained its troops to consider the Vietcong and North Vietnamese soldiers as lesser forms of humans. I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised. The depiction of the Japanese enemy during World War II had been even more racist. In fact, the depiction of Germans in World War I as rapacious “Huns” was part of the same process.

The psychological purpose of such demonization is to make it easier for the trainee to kill the enemy in combat. If one is taught to hate the other side, killing becomes a reasonable reaction. Many of the electronic warfare games of today originated in military training programs designed to condition the user to “zapping” another human being.

While the military usefulness of such approaches may be understandable in times of war, why have we seemingly extended “demonization” to include just about anyone with whom we disagree? The practice has been particularly virulent during the recent U.S. election cycle. The practice was not exclusive to either party but extended across the spectrum of politics. As an amateur historian, I am well aware that American elections have been plagued with demonization since the beginning of the republic, but the advent of social media has allowed intensification beyond imagination a few decades ago. I have voted in the last 15 presidential elections, and I have never seen it so bad.

Demonization leads to hate. I have written before about how hatred does nothing but poison society. I have also written about “thought police” and their hateful results. Driving wedges between various segments of society will never result in a peaceful civilization. Breeding hatred is a sure path to the disintegration of any culture.

We as a society need to start listening to one another. We need to listen not to frame a counter-argument but to actually understand what the other is thinking. When negotiating engineering and construction contracts, I learned early on to first search for the items upon which both parties agree. To bind our nation together, we need to start looking for those points upon which we agree, both in our legislative bodies and in society as a whole.

Branding those who do not share our beliefs as inferior human beings is the product of intolerance and unwarranted arrogance. Looking down your nose at other segments of society does not prove the correctness of your vision. It just assures that you will be shortsighted.

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Warren Bell is an author of historical fiction.  He spent 29 years as a US Naval Officer, and has traveled to most of the places in the world that he writes about.  A long-time World War II-buff, his first two novels, Fall Eagle One and Hold Back the Sun are set during World War II.  His third novel, Asphalt and Blood, follows the US Navy Seabees in Vietnam.  His most recent novel, Snowflakes in July, is a Pentagon thriller about domestic terrorism.  He is currently working on a new novel, Endure The Cruel Sun, the sequel to his best-selling novel, Hold Back the Sun. For more about Warren Bell, visit his website at: or see him on twitter @wbellauthor.