Opinion Editorial: Is hate the new black?


Laura Rearwin Ward, Ojai Valley News publisher

Democracy is not in fashion as much as it used to be. Someone told the Ojai Valley News that “hate is the new black” this year. Has the beginning of the civil war already begun, in our minds? The thought is minted fresh each day in the minds of believers fighting to defend their one truth. 

Some people are more than willing to set aside the free exchange of ideas and the First Amendment of the Constitution for a greater feeling of security. As always, fear is what drives the hate that follows. It closes our minds and makes us smaller. Our heightened concern for survival brings forth our most primitive selves — fear of change, fear of outsiders, fear of death, all excusing our attacks, which feels like self-defense.

The First Amendment with its promise of free speech is a cruel mistress for a newspaper and for a republic. We have learned that bots and trolls and terrified people can fuel the herd with disinformation. The insidious walling off, of tribalism, results in microthreats to our democracy every day. Where does civil war begin and where will it end?


It is said that new threats are the most difficult for humans to put into perspective or to balance with other dangers they have accepted over a lifetime. But when did people lose the ability to listen or contemplate nuanced ideas? Lately, so many people merely wait for the trigger words to dump the speaker into their validation buckets. Blinded by their preconceptions, they go binary: right vs. wrong, friend vs. foe. Perhaps this simplicity is a desperate attempt to bring order to a disordered world, but giving up reason and charity will result in the heaviest losses.

What happened to that middle road? Or at least the one where we listened and valued each other, and didn't hear an alternative idea as an attack to our core existence. The rage bubbles up with just one word off script. No logic or consideration. No reason. Just into the bucket you go.

The drama, the finger pointing and the cancellations are exhausting. Unfortunately for democracy, our thoughts are our reality, and dwelling in that dark place for too long is not healthy for anyone. The fear, the lack of tolerance, the righteous anger in our community can be heard about a half-mile lane reduction, repurposing a school property, tourists, mask wearing, vaccines, etc. The point we're missing is that the real danger to our community and our country is the hate itself. The words of Franklin D. Roosevelt have new meaning in modern times: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Hate is now so fashionable, that opinion is deemed dangerous, irresponsible and a threat to life itself. The very same people who once marched for social and economic justice, for equal rights and free speech, have turned 180 degrees. The Ojai Valley News is challenged with a balancing act, week in and week out — we expect that. We embrace the First Amendment as the heart and soul of any good newspaper, and we won't be giving up on it, even when the going gets tough.

Life is messy. People are passionate. We embrace the difficulty and the people of our community, as we embrace the values of the Constitution of the United States. It's OK that we don't always agree. Thank you for reading the news, and the opinion, of our Ojai Valley community. May it stimulate your thinking, and get you to know your Ojai Valley neighbors.