Michael Francese

Issue No. 18 • Spring 2017

Hatred of others is born from insecurities within. I am no stranger to hatred. When I was 15 years old I was a skinhead. At the time my grandfather had just died, some of my extended family was refusing to speak to my parents, my siblings and myself, I had just gotten into a fight where I lost a tooth and my bottom row of teeth had been rearranged and I was hitting the very beginning of my long bout with depression and anxiety. The combined feelings of all of these events along with some pent up aggression and repressed feelings of my latent homosexuality left me aching to find somewhere where I felt right. Instead of focusing my efforts on the things that I should have been focusing on, like the state of my mental health, I decided that hatred was the easiest and most open path for me to follow.
It's especially easy when you're 15 and naive. Even more so when you have a group of 30 year olds egging you on to be just like them. They became the people I looked to when I needed to understand something because they were "cool." I had known them since I was very young. My sister and brother had fallen for the same tricks and brought them to the house a lot when I was a child. They were smart and figured out early on to not get too involved but by the time I had run into them again, my brother and sister were already off doing their own things. I had no one to tell me to turn away. My brother had moved to Boston for school and my sister moved out of the house for a brief period of time to get out and live life on her own. My parents were heavily invested in our family business and our family troubles so, for the most part I was left to figure things out on my own. The only outlet I had at the time was punk music. Eventually that turned into me favoring a very specific subgenre of punk music which is mostly listened to by skinheads, nationalists, and white supremacists. The messages in the songs were not as apparent to me at the time. What I focused on more than anything was the idea that people, who were as angry and alone as I was could find pride in something and unity/brotherhood in each other. Which were things that I didn't feel at all at the time. So, I got involved with them. I did so because there were all these big promises of making things great for people like us and we would get rid of the things that were "ruining society."
I would get into detail about the 3 months I spent normalizing my inner turmoil as well as being brainwashed by Nationalist rhetoric but I don't need to paint that picture. It's being broadcast 24/7. It's everywhere you look. It's 6 years later, the horrible things I said and did during those 3 months are things that I thought I owned up to and put behind me. Instead I'm slapped in the face with them every time Trump, his cabinet, or his supporters open their mouths. I'm hearing the same things that "recruiters" say to vulnerable young kids on my television screen at home. I see people agreeing with it and thinking it's ok or trying to justify it. My own father thinks these things are ok. He doesn't know that I was apart of it. He doesn't know that when I say "Dad this is wrong, you're being brainwashed!" that I know what I'm talking about. I feel somewhat responsible for this normalization. 3 months of my life were dedicated to it. It took a long time for me to come to terms with who I am and the things I did and what I was a part of but I did. I don't wish death or injury to people that follow the same path I did. I wish that they would grow up and learn to love themselves. I wish that they would learn to deal with their underlying issues and stop projecting them on people that don't deserve it. What Trump does is push away things he doesn't understand. Or he outright tries to destroy them. The world isn't made for ignorance, it's made for growth and unity. We aren't supposed to be divided, we're supposed to work, live and grow together.