"I hate (choose your denomination, creed, affiliation)."
Words I have only too recently heard. Phrases that burn like brands in my sensibilities.
I have been naive. I was taught both at home and in school, public and private, secular and religious, that hate was detrimental to society. Hate unravels the fabric of the social contract, it distorts relationships, it sours discourse. I was taught that ignorance gave birth to hatred. If only those full of hate could understand those they hated, they would be kinder, gentler, warmer, and wiser. Knowledge and learning could banish hatred. Experience and education were coffin and tomb for it.
How wrong a teaching. How silly a thought.
I begin to think that hatred is essential to humanity. I fear that we are built to hate, to despise that with which we disagree. It is troubling to me that an evening of otherwise pleasant banter, an evening of gathered intellectuals whose learning and wisdom I admire, could present to me so ugly an image of hatred that it haunts, ghoulishly, my waking hours.
"I hate him/her because he/she hates me."
Such a sentiment seems to be the reason for it.
This isn't a case of "I hate what he/she believes" or "I hate what you said". I wish it were. I wish that is what I heard, but it is not. I heard the hate of the wrathful, heaped onto those deemed ignorant, foolish, backward, and broken.
Eight intellectuals, twelve degrees among them-- Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Cambridge...
There was no hope in their discourse-- save for that reserved for the utter evisceration of their opponents, those silent, but terrible specters of another religion, any religion, another political party, another opinion, another nation, another creed, another community.
There was no respect, because the enemy doesn't deserve respect, and what is more, the enemy would never dream of giving it to me.
There was no reconciliation. It is impossible. Hate does not permit healing, or understanding, or even examination.
We draw our lines and walls. We seal ourselves in. We hope everyone around us is exactly like us, not like the people we're speaking so ill against, for we certainly wouldn't want to be impolite. We'd just save our hate until the affected party was out of the room.
Polite hatred. Careless bigotry.
Twin demons of our age.
(My apologies for the vague quality of much of this post. Decorum demands I leave out most of the details, but I had to write something. I appreciate your indulgence in this.)