Does it seem to you that hate is becoming mainstream?
My brother called me this morning, worried about the terror attacks in Barcelona, Cambrills and Turku over the last few days, coming right on top of Charlottesville, Manchester and London. As he's in Saudi and I'm in Malaysia, we are also aware of the many hate crimes that don't hit main stream news media.
"I don't believe in profiling," he said, "but we have to do something about violent arseholes!"
In case you're confused which particular violent arseholes we were thinking about, the answer is all of them.
You see, if you take me, my brother and our partners and their sibs and partners, just us very close family, you will see a kind of United Nations effect.
We range from Nippon Paint's brilliant white to the finest dark chocolate in terms of skin, and we cover most of the major faith groups.
We're from Europe, North America and Africa and we live in all those places plus the Middle East and Far East Asia.
In other words: whenever someone blows up "the enemy" or mouths off about "the x problem" you're talking about one of us. It is very hard not to fall into hate. Especially when politicians and faith leaders make speeches about how you are Evil Incarnate.
I can't fix the world but I can help manage my feelings.
What helps me is engaging with people who are cheerfully accepting of differences. The kind who just respect that we're all different and celebrate it.
When I'm having an anti-X moment, I pick up the phone, and go for a coffee with a friend who isn't like me, and we just hang and have a good time. It can be a Malaysian Christian Mala or a Cambodian Muslim May or a Thai Hindu Myriam - it doesn't matter. Just reminding myself that friendships cross divides cheers me up.
Good random experiences are a tonic too. Like when me and my friend Emanar were in Central Market a week or two ago, talking to two Malay girls running a clothing stall.
(For non-SEA readers, most Malay people are Muslim. These two definitely were because they wore tudungs, traditional local Muslim headscarves. Although some Muslims drink alcohol, Malaysian Muslims usually believe their religion forbids them to drink and the law prohibits them from buying alcohol. )
"I need a party shirt for my husband," I said to them.
They hauled out a lovely batik, perfect for a posh event.
"I love it," I said. "But I'm thinking more of a party at the pub."
"He can wear this there too," the sisters giggled. "And he'll look so handsome!"
"He's dressed nicely all week at work. Do you have something more relaxed?"
The sisters thought for a second, and then dived into their stock, producing the best beach party shirt I'd seen in years and asking, "Will tuna fish be suitable for the pub?"
"The tuna fish," I said seriously, "will be the talk of the regulars for weeks!"
"Tell them where you bought it!" the girls chorused instantly.
Such a simple story, right? An everyday occurrence. But when I hear hate speech urging us into "Us & Them" remembering that little scene gives me hope.
Hate isn't universal. And when we reach out and remind ourselves of the ordinary people who are quite happy to accept differences, the world looks a little better.
PS the sisters have the stall on the first floor, on the balcony, directly facing the main door. Their batik shirts are awesome, and they had several more tuna shirts! You should go and take a look.