I’ve been hoping (and occasionally saying) for months now that maybe, JUST MAYBE, the Tea Party and the Trump supporters and the MRAs and the old racist Brexit-ers who sold their children’s economic future up the river for the chance to not have to interact with Polish people at the chip shop anymore are just symptoms of Hate’s last bitter gasp before it loses its grip on the public and political realm, and that the collateral damage these hate-fuelled groups are inflicting on immigrants and people of colour and LGBTQ people and women and the working poor (to name just a few common targets) are just Hate’s attempt to take as many people as it can down with it.
But I’m not so sure. For one thing, even if all Western democracies could finally give all of the hate-based politicians, pundits, policies, and systems operating within their borders the old heave-ho (a BIG ‘if’), our foreign policies and military actions tend to contribute to hate-based terrorism and violence abroad. Not having to see it anymore wouldn’t make hate, or its devastating consequences, disappear from the face of the earth.
Secondly, hate is part of all of us, and believing yourself to be on the side of the Righteous doesn’t make the hate you feel something less, well, hateful. As much many people rail against Donald Trump for promoting fear and hatred, and using hate as a campaign tool, there were many Bernie Sanders supporters who were quite open about how much they “hate” Hillary Clinton. Even among the most civil mild-mannered Canadians, there are locals who hate tourists, kayakers who hate power-boaters, nudists who hate “textiles”, vegans who hate meat-eaters, etc. etc.
In big or small ways, always or sometimes, publicly or privately, generally or specifically, violently or verbally or perhaps just internally, we’re all haters, and we’re all going to hate. There are always going to be people, situations, places, or things that fill our mouths with bile just to think of them and which we detest to the point of obsession. That’s just how it goes. Perhaps there are a few saintly folks out there who really and truly never let hate enter their hearts, even for a moment, but I doubt there are many. Even the loveliest people I have ever met surely indulge in a little hatred for SOMETHING every once in a while. I’d be shocked if they didn’t.
I do want, very much, to be on the path to removing hate (words, actions, and laws based on racism, misogyny, and homophobia/trans*phobia, for example) from our governments, institutions, and communities. I believe the creation of a public sphere where any human being can expect to be safe and to be treated with dignity and respect is one of the most worthy goals we can aspire to (another being the saving of our planet’s ability to support human life, i.e. the fight against climate change). Hate is a universal emotion, maybe even more common than love, but it has no place in shaping the rules that govern our society.
But hate is a part of human nature. To deny it is to deny a part of our human experience and to lack an awareness of our true selves and our true motivations. Hate and fear are powerful motivators, and sometimes (as in the case of Resistance fighters rising up against the Nazis) they can be forces for good.
Where we need to be careful is in where we choose to place our hatred, and why. To hate blindly, without critical reflection, without reason or self-awareness, is simply to transfer your pain to an easy target, feeding it and multiplying it until violence becomes the only logical end. It’s important to remember that your hatred, in itself, is not justification, and it does not absolve you of your responsibility to be a good person. We’re all haters sometimes, but there’s no need for us to be monsters.