We always need a bad guy to root against, so that our ‘good’ can triumph over his ‘evil.’ Hate is an emotion that’s so readily accessible and easily relatable—we’ve all felt it. When we find something or someone so detestable, surely it gives more credence and ‘rightness’ to our own beliefs.
But does it have to be that way?
Consider that there’s political gain in hate. The emotion has been particularly forceful of late as we’ve drawn nearer to Election Day. Watching the conventions over the last two weeks, you couldn’t help but feel the waves of dishonest animosity from both sides toward their rivals.
Let alone that the conventions themselves are shamefully hypocritical displays of overspending by both political parties, each chock-filled with politicians shouting about fiscal austerity. They’ve now become antiquated methods for hyping up the party faithful with “proof” to legitimize why they should really detest what the other party stands for.
There’s also profit in hate: Rush Limbaugh’s entire—very profitable—broadcasting career has been built on a foundation of hate, and numerous other commentators with books to sell and ratings to garner have followed suit. Keith Olbermann and Randi Rhodes are broadcasters on the opposing liberal side who’ve been similarly criticized.
Looking to raise money for your group or cause? Follow suit of the fundraising emails and snail-mailers galore asking for handouts or urging action based on wild claims—many hate-based. “Obama gives your tax dollars to rebuild Muslim mosques around the world. While millions of Americans struggle to keep their homes and jobs, President Barack Obama can’t give your tax dollars away fast enough.”
Just the tinge of anti-Muslim hatred in that manipulated one was meant to boost support for the conservative Christian American Family Association. (Author’s note: Run, don’t walk, to the bi-partisan FactCheck.org, a project of the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center, anytime you want to double-check how truthful a political statement might be.)
There’s hate just for hate’s sake: consider musician Ted Nugent’s recent comments about President Obama: “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” He added: “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil America hated administration, I don’t even know what you’re made out of.”
Is Nugent too hateful for you? There’s plain-old divisiveness in hate: dusting off the script Hollywood used during the 1980’s cold-war era, Mitt Romney once mischaracterized Russia as our “number one geopolitical foe.” Granted, he was trying to slight President Obama for his conversation with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting of international leaders. But once a hated villain, then surely always a hated villain, no? Romney has taken much criticism for his lack of international finesse for this statement, so I guess the answer is no.
But the GOP Presidential nominee’s opponents have been just as offensive when they bring up Romney’s own religious beliefs. His Mormonism has regularly—and alarmingly—been touted as a reason for concern. Just Google “Romney Mormonism Dangerous” for the one million-plus search results to see the anti-Mormon hate out there.
Ah yes, religious-based hate, which abounds aplenty. It also brings us to the shame in hate. Consider the now oft-photographed images of Westboro Baptist Church supporters protesting at funerals of U.S. servicemen and women holding posters shouting, “God Hates Fags!”
Of course, hate isn’t just international or political or religious. Sometimes it’s just ignorant. Take for instance, the recent story of a young teen with Down syndrome who was prevented from boarding an American Airlines flight to take his first-class airline seat for a cross-country flight with his parents. The pilot believed he’d be disruptive and a potential danger once the flight was in-air.
Sure, I know some readers will counter that this wasn’t a case of hate, and perhaps it was merely discriminatory at most. But knowing that most types of discrimination—racial, religious, national, etc.—are based in hate, fear and ignorance, I’d argue it comes pretty darn close.
But worst of all, of course, there’s death in hate. Most recently, six people were gunned down and killed (and four others injured) at a Sikh Temple outside of Milwaukee. The gunman was a white supremacist.
On a week where we mark the 11th anniversary of September 11, do we need to be reminded of just how destructive hate can be? It was hate that attacked us that morning, and hatred for what we have always believed we stand for.
Sadly, we aren’t making sure that hate itself is something we need to defeat. If we continue to let hate stand in the way of our own progress here and abroad, there’s little we can accomplish. When it appears that hate is becoming a tenet of how we behave and believe politically, religiously, legislatively—in every way—then there is nothing right, good or credible that can ever triumph in that.