It seems as if I cannot get away from it
Expressions of hatred
Discussions of hatred
Hate directed towards the LGBT community
Hate directed towards Obama
Hate directed towards those who criticize Obama
I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so what I offer here is only a personal reaction
I want to address Hate
I wand to discuss Hatred
I was not sure which word to use for the title
I am writing from the deepest part of my soul
my feelings will not be hurt if you decide not to continue reading
I will be honored if you are willing to hear me out
I think back to Parris Island, summer of 1965. I was 19, I had dropped out of Haverford and enlisted in the Marines. I was going to drop out of college - a broken relationship had made me realize I needed some time and space to grow up, and once I was not eligible for a 2S deferment I knew I would be drafted, so I enlisted, choosing to be among those who wanted to serve, even as I opposed Vietnam.
Boot camp. I did't get beaten up by my drill instructors. Not physically. But I was directly exposed to hate as a weapon. We were being prepared as if we were about to go into battle against the Viet Cong - after all, the Marines had landed at Da Nang in March. And to prepare us to kill - not always an easy thing to do - we were being taught to hate, to simultaneously see our potential enemy as less than human but simultaneously very scary and potentionally powerful. Thus we had drilled into us racist terminology - Slopes, Dinks, Gooks.
There was no one of East Asian heritage among the 75 who started in our boot camp platoon, nor in the one additional who joined us after a week in the brig. 76 relatively young men having hatred poured into them regularly.
I wonder what those of African-American heritage thought. This was, after all, the time of Civil Rights. We had had almost 8 years since the televised imagery of the Little Rock 9 in the Fall of 1957, with the screaming and contorted faces of whites directed at adolescent Negroes who simply wanted to attend Central High School. Young men and women, to be sure, but adults, including women, their faces contorted, their bodies almost rigid in anger and hatred, and language that was demeaning, threatening, perhaps worse.
I had had some of that directed at me - I did civil rights stuff in the summer I graduated from high school, 2 years earlier than Parris Island. I had experienced some of it participating in Civil Rights demonstrations around Philadelphia, most notably a march in the city of Chester PA.
I began then, back in 1963, to realize that resorting to demeaning others by language and insult was a sign of my own fear and insecurity. I cannot say I had not used the language of slurs, or that I had not in my mind conjured fantasies of the evil things to which I could subject others who in some way raised my insecurity. Having it directed at me brought me up short, made me examine myself in ways I had not previously done.
In the years since I have been subject to many slurs, to language of insults, to attempts to demean me, or to yank my chain and force me to respond in kind. Sometimes I have been weak, and made the mistake of acting in a similar fashion. Other times I have realized what was happening, and took a deep breath.
In Parris Island, we were working on hand-to-hand combat. One drill instructor yelled at me to think of my opponent as a Nazi. I stopped and stepped back, which surprised almost everyone. I turned to the DI and said "but he's not." It surprised almost everyone. Somehow it didn't surprise me. But I did not understand why.
Consider these terms: Nigger-lover homo fag kike Hebe pansy egghead dweeb pussy wimp . . . . just a few of the terms that have been directed my way by others over the 6 and half decades of my life
I am supposed to be insulted if you say "you throw like a girl" because females are supposed to be inferior
You think you will get a rise out of me because I treat someone with a skin darker than mine as a fellow human being?
You believe you can make me feel small or respond in anger because you challenge my sexuality, question my physical strength, belittle the power of my mind? Good luck, but you are wasting your time.
Yesterday I had a student I had to remove from my class and put in the hall because she twice yelled at a fellow student "Shut up! Shut up!" I warned her the first time, and when it happened again, I put her in the hallway to calm down and went out to talk to her. She was so enraged that she refused to listen to me, so she spent the last 15 minutes of the period out there. Shouting down someone who makes you uncomfortable can mean that the other person has gotten your goat, made you respond in a way that is out of control. That does not mean one does not respond - it is possible to respond in a way that remains in control, which is dismissive of the hatred and weakness and fear being shown by the person who has to resort to such things.
I am neither psychologist nor psychiatrist. I try to be a teacher. I try to help my students learn that to respond in kind can mean to lose oneself.
In a situation where hatred is acceptable, where it may even be encouraged, humanity is diminished. It becomes too easy to justify, to rationalize, responding not merely in kind to perceived threats or insults, but even more forcefully.
And I think of Sean Connery in his Oscar-winning role - But note this, that this clip is labeled "How to deal with Chicago politicians, like Obama."
I have been largely absent from this site for several days, but not so absent that I have not seen a continued escalation of language that is demeaning, of anger that is being fed, of words and actions that disturb me.
And of course as a teacher of Government and Politics I am not oblivious to what has been happening in our political arena, with the likes of the man of whom one wit said "We shall overcomb."
I think there is an emotion that is ultimately more powerful than hatred. Actually, I can think of several.
One of course is pity, although there is always a danger that it can serve as a mask for fear, for hatred. It also can serve a a vehicle for demeaning those at whom it is targeted. But if it is truly from the other more powerful emotion, it can serve to heal, to reach out.
The other simply put is love, in all of its dimensions. Not merely romantic love, but also the caring for and connectedness with all of humanity, or even better, all of creation. In that case rather than pity perhaps it would be better to call it sadness, being disappointed at how the person is depriving himself of the joys and beauty of that which he hates, demeans, fears.
I have wondered through enough religious traditions, and studied enough about others, to understand this. Often the mystics of different religious traditions have more in common with one another than they do with the non-mystics of their own. Often they see a connectedness which transcends the human understanding that guides the organization of their own human tradition. It is perhaps why many who are mystics do not seek authority, and accept it and its responsibilities only reluctantly.
But this is not about religion. Nor is it even about spirituality.
Rather I am wrestling with the incompleteness and weakness of the human condition.
I still at times find myself wanting to lash out. It can be as simple as under my breath wanting to call a driver who cuts me off an asshole - about the strongest epithet to which I am prone to resort - until I can see in the impatience or the arrogance or the lack of attention aspects of my own behavior. All of the times I have been involved in motor vehicle accidents it was because at least one driver - often me - was too impatient, too arrogant, too inattentive to the task of operating the motor vehicle.
I consider many of our conflicts with our fellow humans to have the characteristics of those auto accidents. If we are honest, at least one side and sometimes both are too impatient, too inattentive to the whole picture, too arrogant in being self-justifying.
Then we are stymied. Then we are afraid. Then we lash out, perhaps in anger, perhaps rising to a condition of hatred, in which we shut out any willingness to see things in common with the target of the hatred?
I do not want to live like that. I do not want my life diminished by such anger, such blindness to others.
It should not matter that someone else treats me, or someone or something about whom I care, in such a fashion. That does NOT justify my responding in kind.
Perhaps I might win that particular conflict, be it social, economic, or political. Then I think of words from Christianity which although I no longer consider myself an adherent to that religious tradition still speak to me with power, from Mark 8:6 - For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Today is the 30th day of April. On the 23rd of May, 4 weeks from Monday, I will turn 65. I have outlived my mother by almost two decades - she was not yet 47 when she died. My father lived into his early 80s. His older brother lived into his 90s, his youngest sister passed recently at 89. I have perhaps 2 more decades on this earth. That is too short a time for me to be consumed by anger, by fear, by hatred.
I understand that at times we must speak or act in ways that do not match our highest ideals. We have responsibilities for the care of others that may leave us no choice. I again recall the words of a notable Russian Orthodox monk and spiritual father, who spend World War II living on Mount Athos, with only partial knowledge of the great conflict that was raging. He wrote that he prayed that the less evil side might win. This finally helped me to recognize that when we seek to choose the lesser evil we should not forget that we are still choosing evil. it is not grounds to glorify what we are doing, or to ignore our own failings in having to make such a choice.
i cannot say that I will not at times be tempted to hatred. But I can choose not to let that temptation overcome me, cause me to lose any sense of proportion, lead to my self-justification and rationalization for the words and deeds that can flow from such a choice.
I do not argue that this is an easy topic. It is not. It is still for me a challenge, one with which I have wrestled at least since that moment at Parris Island when I realized the implications of fomenting hatred as a means of preparing someone to kill. That is now almost half a century ago. I still have not overcome my tendencies towards anger, towards wanting to use words to demean, to seeking to rationalize my belittling and attacking of others to cover my own fear and insecurity.
But I can and do refuse to accept that as a means of operating, whether it is politically or socially. I can choose not to acquiesce in it, either in myself, or by others.
I can and must speak out, without screaming or implying that therefore I am a superior being (which I am not) in saying that such expressions and actions are wrong.
I have a choice, which is to be responsible for my own words and actions. That is a start.
It is also insufficient.
I also must indicate clearly when I think such expressions and actions from others are wrong, at least by raising the question of whether the person(s) from whom they come are not acting in a destructive fashion.
It is a Saturday morning. For all practical purposes, "coverage" of the curricular material for the year is complete. We have an AP test on Monday May 9, the state exams on Friday May 20. But the learning continues, always. It is not just preparing for the tests. It is reflecting about what we have learned, it is looking at the world around us and seeing where we fit, what can and should be doing. It is stepping back from yelling "Shut up! Shut up!" and learning how not to escalate the situation.
Putting one of those on the other side in the morgue is not how to resolve conflicts. Not really. As Gandhi taught us, insisting on an eye for an eye will eventually leave the whole world blind.
If we truly believe that our progressive values are a superior way to act politically, should not our words and actions on behalf of those values not descend to the level of demeaning and fear and insult and hate that we so dislike from the other side of the political spectrum?
Or are we willing to be so Machiavellian as to argue that since our end is so important the means we use to achieve should not matter - anything and everything is justifiable in the name of achieving the goal.
I do not accept that. I do not accept it for myself. I will not accept it from my students. It cannot be a part of how I operate politically.
It is Saturday morning. It is the day on which I am often reflective.
Perhaps my words speak only to me. Writing them is a way of clarifying my own thinking.
I am shy in person. I am insecure. I very much want to be connected with others.
That is in part why I share these mental meanderings.
Perhaps they will speak to few if any others. So be it.
But just as I find I must speak out in the presence of what I think is wrong, so I felt that now, here, I had to share these thoughts, as incomplete and possibly incoherent as they might be.
Thanks for reading.