NPJ Book Review: Rising Out of Hatred, The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow

Rising Out of Hatred, The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow (2018)

 There’ve been scores of reviews written about this provocative work. The reviews cover the spectrum. I thought I’d approach it from a different yet personal angle.

The Pulitzer winning author’s illuminating mind about Derek Black compliments my direct experience with white nationalists and Trump supporters who all but seem to worship the current president. They are as Eric Hoffer would say, “True Believers” who would sacrifice their personal truths for a belief greater than they possess or have the resources to possess in dealing with their own plight. Fear, loathing and aggressive, abusive language are useful tools for politicians, presidents and even God’s ministers. The subtitle speaks to the path of the book.

My white nationalist “friends” and “relations” when speaking of the president and the claims of other white nationalists say, “Oh the President’s only joking. It’s sarcasm and irony. He’s extremely intelligent as are his children. Listen to his Press Secretary.” The veil of racism and intolerance is thin. “The current president is far superior to that black man serving in the office previous to him.”

The joking about racism is “a cognitive gateway” to manipulative behavior and action. The insider’s joke gives the okay for the rise of prejudice and intolerance that is also heard from the pulpit on any given Sunday morning. The preaching opens the door for the politically unsure and ambiguous. Disparate meanings are embedded in lofty theological and philosophical  language. If you’re out of work and living paycheck to paycheck and you are made promises that are always just around the next corner, how do you respond? “All we have to do is make government more efficient – putting the right people in the right places and draining the swamps around us.” Meanwhile, the expanding swamp pollutes the politics of the country and the remnants of democracy…and the wealth continues to flow to the wealthiest. Read my self-book and make me richer might be a useful saying.

And, unfortunately, not everyone is equal. Not everyone has a social and professional network allowing access to the fruits of profit. And capitalism depends on profit especially in a democracy “for the wealthiest.”  Of course, it was easy to see this coming from the 1980’s Me Decade and forward. No surprises. Just simmering anger among the increasing number of poor. Hard work alone doesn’t cut it. I know too many hard-working poor. You have to know someone unless you possess natural gifts, talents, intelligence and resourcefulness in a healthy body and mind.

Saslow has touched a raw nerve. Though this is the story of Derek Black’s growth and turning away from the hatred instilled in him from an early age, it’s also the story of what has unfolded in the United States. The results still can go either way. Nationalism itself is being refined and redefined beyond the language and acts of white nationalists.

Perhaps the protestant preacher whose church I visited and who espoused supporting the Republican Party during his sermon and drives a new Cadillac and has access to a condo down the road in Florida should also reread Mark 8:36, “What does it profit a man to gain the world, and forfeit his soul?”