The Gordon Jewish Community Center and Parnassus Books are thrilled to welcome Sally Kohn author of The Opposite of Hate, as a part of The Nashville Jewish Book Series at the JCC.
CNN’s Sally Kohn is known for her ability to make friends across the political aisle. While establishing herself as a leading progressive voice as a liberal commentator on Fox News, she went head-to-head with her colleagues on divisive issues, engaging in heated arguments—and developed unexpected friendships. She went on to give two viral TED talks (with more than 3 million views) about practicing kindness online and finding compassion even for your fiercest political enemies. But since the 2016 election and the upheaval that followed, even the famously nice Kohn has found herself wanting to lash out at her enemies. She recognized the increased vitriol permeating America’s political discourse—as well as her own intensifying anger—and wondered: Where did all this hate come from?
In The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity, Kohn talks to leading scientists and researchers and investigates the evolutionary and cultural roots of hate in its most subtle and obvious forms, from implicit bias and racism to violence and full-blown genocide. She travels across the country and worldwide, interviewing fascinating people who have left extraordinary lives of hate behind, including:
- A former Palestinian terrorist who, after a prison sentence and even after his daughter was killed by the Israeli military, now works with Israelis to forge understanding and peace.A former neo-Nazi who began to change his life when a cashier at McDonald’s, upon seeing his swastika tattoo, told him, “You’re a better person than that. I know that’s not who you are.” He’s now a Buddhist.
- Survivors of the Rwandan genocide, including an unbelievable story of a man who fell in love with and married the daughter of the man who had slaughtered his entire family.
- Some of her most vicious Twitter trolls, some of whom expressed regret or opened up about their personal hardships and demonstrated their own humanity to Kohn.
Kohn even reflects on her own history of bullying: “I despised Donald Trump’s supporters,” she writes, “and as I caught myself in these little moments of hateful hypocrisy, the more I thought about someone I had bullied at a young age. If I could backslide into such anger so readily, was I really just a hateful person? Was everything I preached about emotional correctness an attempt to mask my true nature? Was it inevitable that the spreading crisis of hate would engulf not only me but all of us? I wanted to understand how hate infects our entire society. And I wanted to know how we can fight back.”
To that end, The Opposite of Hate draws on the fields of psychology and neuroscience to explore the patterns of thinking behind hate, such as “otherizing,” groupthink, and attribution errors—and how we all are implicated. Then Kohn offers tools for combating these tendencies, including connection-spaces (bringing people from opposing sides together), connection-speech (communicating your viewpoint in a way that’s empathetic but firm), and community activism.
Sally Kohn is one of the leading progressive voices in America. She is currently a columnist and CNN political commentator. Previously a Fox News contributor, she has been a frequent guest on MSNBC and writes for media outlets, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, the Daily Beast, Time, and many others. Kohn lives in Brooklyn with her partner, Sarah Hansen, and their daughter, Willa.