A nation is a lot like a family. If there's someone in the family that starts behaving badly, you can't just cut them out of your family, ignore them, and pretend they're not there. You have to deal with them. A drunken father, a hateful brother, a mentally ill sister.

Yes, we can curb behavior. If you want to be at our house, you need to not be violent, you cannot yell at, harass, or threaten other people. But it's impossible to regulate beliefs.

And yes, we can cut off contact for a while, we can denounce them, call them deplorable, call them names like racist, rapist, thugs, and bad people, but that doesn't solve the problem. They're still your father, your brother, your sister. You have to deal with the fact that they exist. Just pretending they're not there, or not family, is going to leave you with a gaping emotional hole.

It's the same for nations. We can't just cut out those troubled people.

We need to figure out what they believe, what they think they need, what they're scared of, and most importantly, how they were hurt.

You don't turn into a drunk or a neo-nazi or a rapist without having suffered some kind of abuse yourself. Human beings just aren't wired that way. We need to find out how that family member was hurt, and how we can help them heal. No-one can do the healing but them, and if they're not willing, then that's their choice. All we can do is keep giving them love, and keep inviting them to heal.

Jakob Holdt, the famous Danish photographer behind American Pictures where he stayed with and photographed everyone from the poorest black people living in shacks to the President in the White House, said that the KKK were the "small racists". He said that, because they were the easiest to crack: Hitch a ride with them for a few hours, and unfailingly they would break down in tears, telling the story of how they were hurt and betrayed as children.

No-one becomes a perpetrator without first having been a victim. We get off on rushing to the victim's defense and pointing fingers at the perp, because it makes us feel like the hero, it makes us feel oh so good. But it does nothing to solve the problem. In fact, it only makes it worse. It's like having an open wound, and being given a salve that feels really good to apply, but only makes the wound bigger. It feels like we're being helpful, but we're being anything but.

People are being hateful and hurtful because they are hurting inside, and hating themselves and others for it. So imagine what happens when all we do is hate and hurt them back: They just get even more entrenched in their ways. It reinforces the belief that "the others" are hurtful and hateful people and deserve what they're doling out. It's only fair.

The only thing hurtful and hateful people need is the same as what the rest of us need: Understanding and love. We need someone who fully understands us, how we think, and most importantly how we're feeling, and we need those people to love us. For real. So we can feel it.

That's hard to do. It's hard, because in order to love the villain out there, we need to love the villain in ourselves. We need to see that everything they do, we do too. We do it in much smaller ways, perhaps, and maybe we do it unconsciously, but there is not a living human being on this planet who haven't at some point hurt some other being, human or otherwise. We need to see the villain in ourselves, and love that, too. Only then can we genuinely love the villain in others.

And we have to recognize that trying to be the here to either the original victim, or the victim hiding inside the original villain, does nothing to help, and is just us giving ourselves a shot of feel-good hormones at the cost of making matters worse. The only way we help the situation is by seeing how we too are villains, and how we're addicted to being the hero. And we have to see that in ourselves and in others, and love that, too.

And finally, we have to see where we've clamored for the victim position, where we've claimed to be hurt or victimized by someone for something that, when we're completely honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we, too, had a, possibly small, hand at making happen. Yes, your wife left you, but maybe you hadn't really been paying her enough attention and building her up as a woman like she needed you to do. We need to see that we do this, and we need to love that, too.

When we can love all those aspects of ourselves, then we can love those aspects in others, and then the healing can begin. No sooner, and no later.

Once a critical mass gets to this point, things can move really quickly.

Without this, there's no solution in sight. And when recent hate crime laws and people looking even harder for transgressions and victimizations, things are getting worse really fast.


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