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Saturday, July 16, 2016

The prevalence of hate

I have thought about writing today's blog for many months. Each time I began to, some type of horrendous event made news. I held back, not wanting to sensationalize those events further or to turn this blog in to news commentary. But now I've realized that this awful series of events, apparently unending, is exactly the topic I should write about.

  • Some Muslims hate other Muslims and non-Muslims.
  • Some non-Muslims hate Muslims.
  • Some Christians hate non-Christians.
  • Some Christians hate Christians of another type.
  • Some white Americans hate black Americans.
  • Some black Americans hate white Americans.
  • Some straight Americans hate LGBT Americans.
  • Some Democrats hate Republicans.
  • Some Republicans hate Democrats.
I could write more, and I could illustrate with specific examples, but you get the point.

You might be saying, Wait! Those aren't all alike. You'd be correct. There are different causes, some of which are more understandable than others. But they have one thing in common: hate.

You might be saying, Wait! Hate is such a strong word. Is it the right word? You'd be correct. There is a spectrum:

  • Love.
  • Acceptance.
  • Tolerance.
  • Indifference.
  • Intolerance.
  • Rejection.
  • Hate.
Hate is on the far end of that scale. True religion, whatever the tradition, and even a respectable humanism call us to the opposite end of that scale. Perhaps humanity will never get there, but a good first step would be for 99.99% of the world's population to fall into the acceptance-tolerance-indifference zone. But let's be honest, we're a long way from even that first step. A good portion of the world's population is sitting in the rejection zone, and too much of the world's population is sitting in the hate zone.

When hateful people act, the consequence is ridicule, persecution, repression, brutality, subjugation, violence, murder, terrorism, etc. And we see a lot of that, don't we? Until we call hate for what it is, we aren't being fully honest.

I've heard people say that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. In many contexts that's true. But when someone who has basic sanity carries an AK-47 or an AR-15 with multiple clips into a crowded building, or explodes a bomb in an airport or an abortion clinic, or drives down a crowded street in a powerful truck, the operative emotion is hate. Fear might partly underlie the hate, but there is more at work than fear.

Having grown up in Montgomery, Ala. in the 1950s and 1960s, I know something about hate. I had hoped I wouldn't see that extent of hate again in my lifetime. But now I do.

Making peace and then keeping peace in hateful situations is daunting, but the desirable way forward is clear: truce, engagement, conversation, respect, remediation, and eventual reconciliation. The alternatives are continued violence and the false, temporary, so-called peace created by ethnic cleansing. Whether's it's by top-down leadership from politicians, clergy, and social reformers or bottom-up initiatives from concerned citizens, the time is now to make peace the right way — the only way that works.