Hate is a Simple Fact of Life
I thought I might go through the exercise of resurrecting and editing a few of my older posts – the ones I wasn’t quite happy with the first time around. So tonight, I am resurrecting my first ever post on WordPress. I had originally titled it, “A Reflection on the Boston Marathon Bombings,” but I have never felt that the title really got to the heart of the feeling I wanted to express, but also that it was just too brief. In any case, I give you my edited thoughts on the state of hate, after the bombings.
It is not new. It is not you. It is not even tied to being an American, as much as we might want to think we are special in that regard. It doesn’t matter who you are.
Throughout the history of mankind, we have been invading each others’ territories, claiming land that was already occupied, singling people out for their differences, and ganging up on (or “bullying”) those who are different. I cringe when I hear the media talk about bullying like it’s a new thing. People have been hating one another since the beginning of time. Pre-humans invaded each others’ terroritories and took their own prisoners. In the bible, which is a loved reference for many people, Cain slew Abel. The Romans invaded what would later be known as Europe and instilled their new religion en masse.
The fact remains: somebody hates you. Yes, you. Not only do they hate you, they wish you harm. Because of your religion, the lack thereof, the way you look, the way you live, for your sunny demeanor, or for your beliefs. That is the truth. Call it “hate.” Call it “mental illness,” or just call it “evil,” but it is true.
There is an actual term for this. If you don’t already know this term, it is xenophobia, and as defined by Wikipedia, is “the irrational or unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.” It is probably in our very genes to be skeptical of things that are different from us, or things that may cause us harm. For instance, many people are afraid of heights. This is not something that is learned, but is a natural feeling that occurs in the belly of someone who is faced with a situation that makes them queasy. I am deathly afraid of heights, even though I have never fallen from a height. There is no reason for this fear, except that my body or brain knows that I am in great danger if I fall from a cliff. I didn’t have to figure this out – it just happened.
In response to my fear of heights, I must always tell myself that I am in no real danger if I stand on the balcony of a 15th floor condominium on the beach. My body tries to tell me otherwise, but my intellect reasons that the balcony has held many other people, and that it will likely hold me too.
If I take this reasoning over to people with whom I am unfamiliar, I know that I must first understand these people before dismissing them as dangerous. Oh geez, that person has, like, 150 tattoos and piercings on every available flap of skin on his body. So what? I have to remember that this person might have a very interesting story to tell, and an outlook on life quite different from my own, but no necessarily bad. (But for the record, I have nothing against tattoos or piercings.)
My knee-jerk reaction to encountering someone different from myself, or what I am used to seeing, isn’t necessarily the right one. After my initial shock, I wonder about this person in depth. What are they like? Why did they choose this? Are they that different from me? Hate, though? No, only if this person acts like a jerk. And then, maybe not hate. Sometimes, hatefulness just makes me wonder even harder what has happened to this person to make them so hateful.
But the simple fact remains, that hate is a part of our everyday lives. It’s easy to hate, and more difficult to instead try to understand. Now think about what you “hate,” and decide if you are so different. It is part of the human condition to be suspicious of those different than ourselves, but reason and common humanity are our only chance for redemption. If you criticize, you are fueling the fire, the contempt of our differences, instead of embracing them as the lovely, fragrant spice of life.