Americans increasingly hate each other

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

I’ve previously mentioned that my mom has resigned from the Environmental Commission. See Blanche Krubner resigns from the Jackson Township Environmental Commission. She served for 46 years, from 1973 to 2019.

It was difficult for her to resign. She has many happy memories of working with good people to keep central New Jersey a safe and happy place to live. She protected the drinking water, so we can drink from the faucet without having to worry about pollutants.

In the early days, the Environmental Commission was a lot of fun for her. She worked with great people. Some were Democrats and some were Republicans, but back then party affiliation did not matter. Everyone was friendly. They were neighbors who were working to ensure their neighborhoods stayed safe and clean.

Although national politics has often been full of controversy, nothing like that happened at the local level. Not till around 2010. That is when the Tea Party showed up. The local government became an outpost of extreme Republican government, so the real estate developers took over and did whatever they wanted, with very little restraint.

My mom began to find the meetings more and more stressful. The language used against her became shocking. One time someone stood up and called her a “bitch”. Such language was utterly unimaginable in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s. In that sense, things really were better back then. After 2009, my mom found herself forever in the minority, with less power to keep the town safe and clean. The situation became increasingly sad, as everything she’d defended for 40 years was damaged.

Especially at the local level, it is weird to have such high conflict meetings. When my mom started in the 1970s, everyone was friendly to each other and you could hardly tell who the Democrats and who the Republicans were. Everyone wanted basically the same things, good parks for the children, clean drinking water, good schools.

I’ve often read that Trump is just a symptom, he isn’t the real problem, and when I consider how politics in Jackson have changed, I have to agree. If even neighbors can hate each other, and local politics get poisoned with hate, then the problem is much bigger than Trump.

When I was a child my parents frequently hosted dinner parties, and people all over town, from all walks of life, got invited. Some were Republican and some were Democrat but nobody really cared back then. Nowadays things are different. Trump supporters are so full of an aggressive anger, it would be very strange to invite one to a party — and that’s not commentary about Trump, but it is commentary about the people who give their loyalty to Trump.

We now live in a country where neighbors look across the street with paranoia and fear and hate. I’ll share two different anecdotes about incidents with two different neighbors. Same house, but two neighbors, separated by 40 years.

Back in 1974 the USA still had 4 auto companies. AMC was still in business, even though they are now forgotten. My folks bought an AMC car, because it was cheap. AMC cars had an automatic transmission, but it was really badly done. Quality in American cars were bad back then, which is why Japan gained market share.

Anyway, back then all American cars had carburetors instead of fuel injection, and of course carburetors don’t work so well on really cold mornings, so my dad was in the habit of going out and starting the car a few minutes before we needed to go anywhere. On this one morning, he went and started the car, then came back in and served all of us breakfast. Normally us kids walked to school, but my dad had some errands to run, so he was thinking this time he’d drive us.

Then my dad goes to put something in the car. But the terrible automatic transmission from AMC had decided to put itself in reverse, all on its own. So the car rolled down the driveway and across the street and up over the curb and it smashed into the fence of our neighbor across the street. Embarrassing for us.

My dad went up to the McKinney’s, who lived there, knocked on the door, explained the situation to David. They sort of laughed about poor quality in American cars. My dad said “Send me the bill for the fence” and they shook hands. Dad drove us to school, then took the car to the shop to be looked at. Later, the neighbors got their fence fixed and showed the bill to my dad, who paid it.

That was how things worked in 1974. Many years later, the McKinney’s moved away. Various families came and went. In 2012, some new neighbors moved in. They were a Catholic family, a big family, they had 5 kids living with them, though 2 of the kids were in their 20s and might have gone off on their own, but were still at home. They had some loud fights, screaming and yelling, which I could hear from my mom’s house, but otherwise they kept to themselves.

In 2014, I took a bus to Jackson, and I arrived at the bus stop, late at night, 2 miles from home, so I call my mom and ask her to pick me up. My mom pulls out of the driveway in her minivan, and apparently she backs up a little too far, so the back of her minivan scrapes the car of the daughter who lives at the house. My mom was not aware of the scrape, but the daughter saw this from her bedroom window.

My mom comes and gets me and we go home, and we make coffee, and I’m telling her about my week in New York City. Then the police arrive. Our neighbors have accused my mom of a Hit And Run and they want to press charges.

I was astounded. It was just amazing to me that our neighbors would call the police instead of walking over, knocking on the door, and explaining the situation. A small scratch on the car? Mom could have just written a check. That’s exactly how my parents worked things out with neighbors 40 years ago.

Anyway, my mom apologized to the police and the police went to the neighbors and suggested this was a normal accident to be handled by insurance, rather than the police.

But I continue to be amazed that anyone would think it was normal to treat their neighbors like that.

I seriously think there is no hope for our national politics, when relationships among next door neighbors have become that hostile.

The trend line is worrisome. I remember in 2005 I was worried about some of the authoritarian tendencies in the Bush administration, especially stuff like the Patriot Act. And I was wondering, hey, if we keep going in this direction, then where will we be in 10 years? And apparently the answer was Donald Trump. And the same question holds, where will we be in 10 years? If in 2019 it is totally normal for the President of the USA to lead a crowd that is chanting “Send her back!” then what will be normal in 2029?

Mind you, in saying all this, I’m aware that in some areas local politics have often been torn apart by controversial issues. When I was a kid, cities like Boston were torn apart by angry fighting around school busing. Racial tension has always run high in the USA, and it has sometimes torn cities apart. But the problem seems to be spreading. Nowadays some citizens hate every other citizen, with the kind of intensity that used to be limited to racial issues. And if racism has always been the Original Sin of the USA, what does it mean that such rage is now contaminating almost every relationship in our society?