Hate was first published in The Oregonian newspaper as an Op-Ed on November 4, 2018. It appeared under the title Others Are Easy to Blame When Hating.
The world right now is a scary place. Maybe for many of us it feels more scary than we imagined it could be. However, of everything going on in this growing world of neighbor against neighbor, nothing scares me more than the growing feeling of hate. Now when I say hate is growing, I imagine more than enough people are willing to jump onboard in agreeance, pointing out the sins of those they deem "others", but how much are we willing to see and judge the growing hate of ourselves and those we deem to be our friends and allies?
This is the part where many will likely get stuck. A thousand examples can be brought up on why it is okay to hate the "other", and any examples the other way can be easily swept away with righteous reasoning. But this isn't the hate that I'm talking about. The hatred of ideas or beliefs does not scare me. The distaste of words and actions does not frighten me. These things are only natural. A part of the human condition. No, it's the hatred of people that so fills me with a growing dread.
Increasingly it seems we look at the "other" as though they are no longer people like us, but a different breed all together. We latch onto broad blanket claims and seek out the extreme examples to prove our points. We avoid the "other", we demean them, shun them, and in the end do our best to dehumanize them. Rather than a collection of individuals, they become a nebulous blob, represented in our minds by the worst of them. We do this because they are easier to hate this way. It's easier to ignore them. It becomes okay to hate them, and once it's okay to hate, it becomes okay to do terrible things to defeat them.
I don't understand this type of hate. In the end we are all just bags of meat controlled by well timed chemical reactions and electrical impulses. There is nothing about any of us that under the right circumstances and given the right stimuli could fail to become just as terrible as those we hate. It's a hard thing for us to admit to ourselves, because if we do, it becomes that much harder to hate. We like to pretend that we are somehow naturally better, that in the end we are not the same. We prefer to ignore the privileges created by our backgrounds and our knowledge. We demand that the "others" listen and then stop listening ourselves. We refuse to hear their voices, and then masturbate ourselves for all the world to see. What do we hope to accomplish with such things? When has shunning ever worked? When has hating ever changed minds or brought about a better world?
Why do we do it? I know why, it's because hating is easier. It's a lot of work to change another person's mind. We expect epiphanies without the long period of scraping away at foundations. To change someone's mind you first must listen, and I mean really listen. You have to take it all in, even when you don't agree with any of it, even when every fiber of your being screams with rejection. You don't have to agree with the "other", you just have to understand them, not as the way you see them, but as they see themselves. Rather than declarations and denunciations, you must use questions. They must feel like you want to understand them, that you care for them as individuals rather than a clump of "others", otherwise their ears will always remain closed.
We can't do this when we hate. We bring back up the extremes and they become the excuse to avoid trying with anyone. We force them to be what we expect them to be. We find reasons to do nothing beyond our own masturbatory impulses. It's the sick part that none of us are willing to admit. Hating makes us feel better. Hating is fun. It's gratifying with an immediacy that can never be matched by the long-term labors required to create actual change. If we hate then we never have to examine ourselves, for we can always justify our words and actions by someone else being worse. If we never examine ourselves, we are capable of anything.
Where does it all end, this dividing of the world into us and them? We are all stuck here together, but what happens when the hate grows too far? Division, violence, and death. An ugly repeating of history, far from being the first, that many will claim is inevitable. But it's not. It is not the "others" that are the problem. There is no "other", there is only "us". We are all the problem, but we can't admit it.
I'm scared. I'm so very scared of what we are capable of when we hate.
Image courtesy of Sarah Rankin/Associated Press