The Problem with Hating

When I was a kid, every once in a while I would say something along the lines of “I hate her.” As most of us know this is preteen speak for “I hate how that person made me feel.”

And if I said this in front of my dad, he would say, “Don’t say ‘hate.’” And I would ask him why not because it didn’t seem like such an awful thing to say. And, in fact, it felt rather empowering at an age when I felt pretty powerless.

My dad, who was at an age in which the memory of the Holocaust was still a little too fresh in mind, would say “Hating is something you always regret.”

Although I didn’t quite understand what my dad meant at the time his comment stuck with me and I’ve always resisted from actively hating anyone. OK I hate mosquitoes but I have tried very hard not to hate any person or group of people.

Recently I read that someone I thought was a friend hates me. More specifically, this friend hates me because I’m white. No other reason I’m aware of. I’m white therefore I am hated.

Here’s the problem with hating.

I am Jewish and my ancestors have a long history with hatred for being what they are. Like many Jewish people living in the United States I have family members who died in concentration camps.

When Hitler came into power in 1930’s Germany most German people wouldn’t say they hated the Jews. Most of them probably knew at least one or two Jewish people and felt Jews were pretty much OK.

As they listened to propaganda, though, some began to hate Jews. Again, they probably didn’t hate specific Jews but they began to see Jews as being something less than human. Instead of individual human beings they saw ugly stereotypes.

When you begin to see people as a group. As Them. You can begin doing terrible things to those people. Or you can, at least, begin to condone the terrible things that other people are doing.

And that is the problem with hatred.

When hate enables us to see other people as less than human. When hate enables us to say “they are somehow worse than us,” it creates the conditions that enable people to do things that they almost always regret.

It isn’t hate so much as it is an emotion that enables us to take hate-full action. To say hate-full things. It allowed Nazi Germany to systematically send millions of people into gas chambers. Hate allowed them to see those people as something less than human. It enabled them to do something they otherwise would never do.

Hate enables us to do and justify doing terrible things to other human beings.

I think that free speech is one of the most important rights we have in the United States. Free speech was intended to allow for the expression of many different points of view. Our founders wanted to insure that no authority would ever take away someone’s ability to disagree.

But hating isn’t the same as disagreement. Hate is an expression of an intent to hurt. It is the expression of “you are less than human in my eyes and therefore do not deserve human regard.”

One last point. Hating on the Internet is a real problem because the Internet gives us a certain amount of insulation from consequences. That’s why hatred online is especially virulent.

When we sit in-person with someone else it gets a lot harder to hate and say hateful things. Because you see that person flinch. You see the tears in another person’s eyes. You realize “I have hurt someone who is a lot like me.”  You realize hate has real consequences.

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