Why do Americans on the left and right hate each other so much?

It’s largely because people increasingly derive their personal identity from their membership in a group, and that makes it much easier to fear and hate members of other groups. There’s more to it, of course, but political identity – whether one is a Democrat or Republican – has become a far more important aspect of personal identity than it once was. And when people see one another as members of groups rather than as individual moral agents, there’s going to be trouble.

If your identity is derived from group membership, and especially if you have no other identity, it is much easier to hate members of other groups than if you regard yourself and others first and foremost as individual moral agents.

If you see others as nothing but representatives of groups, moral considerations based on individual worth are easy to ignore. Members of a group will be held responsible for the injustices you attribute to their group, and the respect you’re required to show members of your group can be denied to members of other groups.

Relatedly, you can hate people, not because they personally are hurting you or your group, but because they belong to a group that is hurting you or your group. Continue reading