A time of hatred

A time of hatred

You know, I thought I hated former president George W. Bush. I remember cringing and raging at every new action of his.

But I now realize I've never really known hate.

Hate has always been an abstraction for me. In our culture we say we hate this or that, without knowing the full implications of our words.

I know a love which sustains and lifts me. I feel it for my wife, my family, my friends. I feel it for the people I encounter and help.

And now, conversely, I know the true meaning of hatred. It is no longer an abstraction. It is no longer something you just say.

This is a pure hatred. I see no redeeming qualities in those I hate, because they have expunged all humanity from themselves. It's the hatred I would have felt for Nazis in 1945. It's a hatred which is visceral, deep, wounding.

The "hate" I felt for Bush, I now realize, was mere dislike for his actions and policies. Because, just a short ten years ago, we could still discuss policy differences. Such discussions were becoming strained, but still possible. Those discussions became more rare as the Obama era wore on, as the right became more and more lost in sociopathic animus.

And now there is no discussion to be had. You can't discuss with evil. You can't discuss with people who want to do nothing but inflict hurt and pain.

And this is a perilous time. Because the last time this happened we descended into civil war.

Hatred is the breeding ground for conflict. Hatred is easy to stoke. There's no secret to what the false president is doing, he and his minions. His followers thrive on hate like a junkie does on heroin. You have to get larger hits more often, chasing that initial, pure high. And it's no act. The hate emanates from the top. And now it's spread to me.

And this is the problem.

I've grown up taught not to hate. "Love your neighbor" is not an abstraction (there's that word again), but the creed by which I live. And by neighbor, as I stated in my exegesis on Romans, I don't mean just the people living around me. Everyone in my community is my neighbor. Everyone in my nation is my neighbor. Everyone in the world is my neighbor. You can read no other meaning from those words.

But, what if your neighbor is no longer your neighbor? "Neighbor" implies a common set of assumptions, a basic framework for getting along in the world. That has broken down. He who was once your neighbor now wants to see you in a concentration camp. We saw this most tellingly in the Bosnian wars. People who had lived cheek by jowl for fifty years under Tito, who intermarried and created mixed families, now casually slaughtered each other.

Love your neighbor; except we are descending from a nation of neighbors to a nation of tribes. This didn't begin in 2015. It's been the warp and weft of our country's fabric since its founding. The contradictions were in-built when slavery received protection. The contradictions were built-in when the indigenous were dispossessed and massacred. The contradictions erupted into war, then were papered over, but never resolved. They are now back, the pustule bursting. The chickens are roosting.

What to do with this hate which festers in me, which is making me not who I am, not who I want to be? How I and you and everyone we know answers this question will determine what kind of world we will live in. As the West cracks up, it is the answer which is of paramount importance.

I do not urge you to turn your hate into love for these people. I can't do it myself. There can be no love for them. Loving them would not change them, would not better them, would not alter the way they think. They are lost, and the best we can hope to do is to neuter them so that their fear no longer has any potency.

But do turn that hatred, that blinding, debilitating hatred, into love. Not for them, but for those they hate. For those they oppress. For those they murder. Love those people, work for them, serve them. Protect them as best you can. Speak for them when they can't speak for themselves. Join with them and follow their lead when they take action.

Because, even though I hate them, I paradoxically cannot answer their hate with hate. I have to accept that I hate them, that it won't change because the evil in which they are engaging is such a moral injury it cannot be tolerated. I have to take the hatred I feel for this regime and its followers and transmute it to love for those they target. I have to transmute it to a resolve to resist, to stand up and speak and bear witness. I have to transmute it to a vow to act.

This is a time of hatred. There is no escaping that fact. Time and history care not about our longing to live in quiet times. We inhabit the moment we inhabit, and there's no use in wishing that things had turned out differently. What's in our power is to shape our collective destinies. Neutrality is not an option. What should have happened in 2016—a national front of decency—is now the only thing which will save us. I have hope that it's not too late.

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