Rather than writing something new, this week consider a piece on hate I wrote for the Dallas Morning News. Here is a link to a Chicago Tribune article about last weekend’s violence and how to respond to hate. I don’t know anyone on the alt-right and doubt any of you do either. Thankfully, the movement seems small. Interestingly, the ACLU intervened so they could meet in Charlottesville at all. The First Amendment prevailed. This article highlights an individual’s response ; he happens to be Jewish. What seems prevalent is the universal rejection of hate-filled rhetoric. Good news indeed. If you think of something to do, whether real or symbolic, to counter the dark side, consider sharing it in Comments.
Not long ago, a neighbor child asked my 10-year-old grandson, “Don’t you just hate black people?” He was stunned; his mother was livid. The great cosmic force of life sometimes engineers a change, so a black family has moved upstairs from the happily hating child.
Before we leap to conclusions about that why this child said such a thing, let’s set the obvious aside and look deeper. A young child lacks the capacity to hate, really, but can parrot the adults around her. What the rest of us must do is stop using the word “hate” so readily.
Hate is everywhere these days, or so we’ve been led to believe. It is a particularly popular, wide-net explanation. White people hate black people. Black people hate Mexicans. Republicans hate poor people. Democrats hate rich people. Terrorists hate the West. Everyone hates Muslims. I’ve seen each of these sentiments, whether obliquely or blatantly expressed, on Facebook, on television, and in The New York Times.
The problem? None of these statements is true. The realities are far more complex.
The truth about hate is not that it’s everywhere but that it’s too easy an out. “Haters be hating” is one of those dismissive misunderstandings that make the speaker feel superior to the target.
The terrorists must hate us. What other reason could they have for such unspeakable violence? And maybe Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative hates Muslims. Or maybe she’s just a media-seeking self-promoter who doesn’t know my friend Ajaz or the millions of other perfectly wonderful Muslims around.
The word “hate” is one of those original stems from the base language of most that we know — PIE, or Proto-Indo-European. The only real possibility for assistance in getting to a source is its use as “sorrow,” which, finally, doesn’t help much. The meaning of all this lack of meaning? We’ve had it as long as we’ve had love and probably can’t define it any better.
We use it far too lightly, just as we do “love.” We say we hate broccoli (though that did get President George H.W. Bush 41 in trouble). With this kind of hate, we simply avoid the object. Very, very few of us hate anything seriously enough to take action of any real sort.
Hate’s nearest ally — fear — is a good motivator, but it is notoriously hard to sustain. Consider the unity after 9/11; it lasted long enough to start a war, but not long enough to end it. Even within a war, the need to demonize the enemy so that the populace can fear and, thereby, fight, takes a monumental effort and set of resources. My father would not allow us to eat rice after World War II — the propaganda lasted that long. He’s been gone for almost 30 years, and now everyone in the family drives a Japanese car.
So as we try to make sense of the world, we must accept that there are some bad things in it, and some bad people who do horrible things without good reason. Some people just want to kill others, as simple as that sounds. Hate is a real, visceral human emotion. As such, it does have a purpose: Honorable, upstanding people should hate—injustice, for example. We need to stop giving the bad guys a legitimate cause for the unspeakable and call them what they are: wrong.
1 thought on “On hate…”
Very moving and wise.