Hate: noun a) intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b) extreme dislike or antipathy ~ from the online Mirriam-Webster dictionary
Hate. It seems to be a pretty popular word lately, especially among those trying to score political points or push an agenda. But do we really understand it? To quote Inigo Montoya from the movie classic, The Princess Bride, who said “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. I concur – those that keep using the word “hate” every time they encounter someone who disagrees with their viewpoint have absolutely no idea what true hate really is, or the consequences that can occur by trading in in it.
After World War I, Hitler rose to power by trafficking in hate, seeking to blame all the ills of the German economic collapse on others. Using the propaganda of division, he not only turned Germans against each other, but also used it within his own administration so as to centralize power around himself. The result of his politics of hate was the national support of the death of six million Jews and entry into another world war. Somehow, ordinary Germans were able to justify the slaughtering of their fellow human beings – neighbors, friends, business partners- and those that disagreed with it lived in the constant fear of being found out as traitors to the Third Reich. How does such darkness ever even happen to the human heart?
It happens when people dehumanize others to the point that their death does not even matter anymore. Constantly accusing one group of people as being the source of all your problems, as the reason why your life is difficult, no matter how untrue it is, can eventually start sounding dangerously right. It is far easier to kill those whom you believe hate you anyway, for if they didn’t hate you then your life would certainly be better, right? We all just need someone to blame, rdon’t we?
As silly as this may sound, trafficking in hate in this way is deadly serious. Accusing people of being hate-filled when they merely disagree with you politically, philosophically or spiritually, is not only irresponsible, but dangerously divisive. And, I daresay, un-American as well. This country was founded on the freedom to engage in robust debate without worrying about harm coming to you or yours. Yet, there are those who are taking the debate of ideas down into the gutter, perhaps because they feel it is far easier to get other people to shut up than to actually discuss the merit of their own viewpoint. And, as we recently witnessed in the news with the shooting at the Family Research Council by a gay a marriage supporter, getting those who disagree with you to shut up can be pursued all the way to a violent end.
It seems to me that the only people who really traffic in hate are the very ones that accuse others of it. Disagreement is not hate, bigotry or racism. Accusing people of being hateful, intolerant bigots because they don’t share your world view is intellectually lazy and, as history has shown us, can have deadly consequences. Bullying others into silence is the truest form of hate I know. Division will not make this country better. It merely solidifies power around those who continue to stoke it. And, those who continue to sow division by labeling disagreement as hate are the only ones that benefit from the acrimony. Since when has it been acceptable to try to stifle the difference of opinion in America? Since when has it been okay to vilify our fellow Americans is such a manner as to lead to their harm?
“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate”. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), American jurist and associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court