If you think I look worried in that photo above, you should see the one of Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the photo that introduces his editorial for the organization's spring Intelligence Report. I've been a member of the Center for years and, in turn, receiving this publication for years, and I honestly think that M. Potok looks more and more worried every time. I don't save the issues, so I can't go back and check to be certain, but . . . wow. Although I support the work of his organization (Fighting Hate -- Teaching Tolerance -- Seeking Justice), I can't say I look forward to receiving this publication. Sometimes it sits on my table for a long time before I have the nerve to open it. Sometimes I don't open it at all, but move it into the recycling pile when the table gets too cluttered with things I think I will eventually read. The purpose of the publication is to report on the activities of extremist groups and hate groups, and the people who join such groups are indeed a scary bunch.
In this issue, they have an extensive feature called "The Year in Hate & Extremism," and they print their annual map of Hate Groups, which informs us that for the third year in a row, the number of such groups has expanded dramatically. I know I've written about this before on this blog, but I can't help presenting you once again with the categories of hate groups represented. As a former indexer, I am fascinated with categories. So here goes: Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, Racist Skinheads, Christian Identity, Neo-Confederate, Black Separatist, and the clincher: General Hate.
The people of this world have plenty of legitimate reasons for being riled up. Who doesn't want to find a way to solve at least some of its problems? But why someone would choose hate and violence as The Way . . . it speaks to a level of desperation that is simply beyond me.
Which brings me to something I've been thinking about for several weeks--from a blog called Novel Readings that I admire very much and a post on this blog about Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif, whose work I also admire very much. And this thing I've been thinking of is the idea that "optimism--belief in the possibility of a good outcome--is a moral duty." Soueif's point, and that of the blog proprietor Rohan Maitzen, was that although the future of Egypt is uncertain, possibly dark, one need not lose touch with the exuberance felt in Tahrir Square. This is no plastered-on smiley-face I'm talking about, but an urgent need to hold onto that light, to contribute to a critical mass of light, to serve as a model for others, especially young people.