Photo by Max Letek on Unsplash
Two weeks ago I highlighted a scene from Mary Magdalene where Jesus asked, “How does it feel to carry that hate in your heart,” imploring humanity both then and now to move toward forgiveness, blessing those who curse us.
Last week I unpacked the concept of hate even further by exploring the chapter titled “Hate” in Howard Thurman’s fantastic little book, Jesus and the Disinherited. In short, carrying hate in our heart (among other negative side effects) leads to death in our own hearts, minds, and spirits.
Today and tomorrow (back-to-back, look out!), I want to share what has come up for me whilst exploring this theme of hate for a couple weeks now, especially reflecting on this sentence from Thurman:
“During times of war hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.”
Though he wrote these words during WWII, as I see it they ring painfully true today.
Hatred in Trump’s America
Under normal conditions... well, perhaps “normal” is the wrong word here... under conditions in which our sense of being divided and othered are demonstrably less heightened, the notion of hating someone typically feels foreign, icky, out of place. But when a person (or people groups) has been moved into the category of “enemy,” even if only within our minds, whatever limiter we normally have that regulates or holds back our inclinations toward hatred are abolished.
In other words, our hearts are granted permission to hate while our souls remain unbothered by it.
Right now, in our culture, many of our hatred-limiters are broken. We have (perceived and real) enemies everywhere, causing hatred to run rampant and unchecked.
And I blame Trump.
Since his election, I believe that hatred has become not just normalized but respectable. Actually, strike that, not just respectable, but celebrated.
And 100%, as Thurman notes above, it masquerades under the guise of patriotism.
Hating immigrants, hating the “dems,” hating socialists, hating Black Lives Matters, hating women and people of color, all of this has grotesquely become synonymous with being a “good American” in the eyes of way, way, way too many people in this country.
Two Types of Hatred (and Their Defenses)
I think there are two main ways people express their hate, coupled with two ways in which we justify harboring such feelings of ill repute.
First, there is what I’ll call Intentional Hate, where we know and consciously choose to harbor such feelings in our heart. We justify this type of hate by insisting that the person/group in question deserves our feelings.
Second, there is what I’ll call Inadvertent Hate, where we might not say or admit we hate a person/group, but our actions reveal otherwise. This unconscious hate is justified by our insistence that we don’t actually hate them—when clearly, by almost any measure of the word, we very much do.
In this article I’ll explore Intentional Hate.
Tomorrow, I’ll cover Inadvertent Hate.
Intentional Hate: They Deserve It
Part of what permits otherwise-good people to harbor hate toward others is because of the aforementioned enemy-making process. When a person or particular group has been deemed an enemy, then hatred not only flows easily, it also circumvents the normal checks-and-balances ours conscience provides.
(Which is kinda scary if you think about it. The way our brains can rationalize certain behavior that otherwise we’d find unbearable.)
Though he’s a bumbling idiot in most ways, Trump is truly brilliant at one thing: making enemies out of people and convincing others that they’re their enemies too.
Trump has spent the past four years applying the “enemy” label to all sorts of people: poor people, immigrants, people of color, democrats, and journalists (just to name a few). He insists (believes?) these people are out to get him and out to destroy our country.
In his world, he is surrounded by enemies closing in on all sides.
But his ignorant paranoia isn’t his alone. He has spread his beliefs about a country-full-of-enemies to anyone who will listen. And with so many on the more conservative end of the spectrum already well-primed to accept such a premise, it has been an easy sell.
As was mentioned earlier, once someone has become an enemy (even if only in your mind) you are now free to hate them. “Free” in the sense that your conscience won’t condemn you.
What’s worse, Trump’s very public, very constant hatred of his enemies has provided a state sanctioned outlet for people to let their hatred run rampant as well.
Precisely as Thurman described, hatred is “masquerading as patriotism” in every corner of our country.
But since Trump has masterfully painted so many people as enemies, and since hatred is permitted toward our enemies, we find ourselves in a precarious situation where millions of otherwise “good” people are filled with hatred--and yet they’re undisturbed by hate’s presence in their hearts because it is “justified.”
“Those people are the enemy… they’re trying to destroy our country… take away my rights and way of life… etc…
And “therefore,” the reasoning goes, “they deserve my hatred.”
Thus, individuals can consciously harbor Intentional Hate in their hearts and yet be undisturbed by it, because they believe the other person/group is their enemy and deserving of such hatred.
When Kind & Loving People Hate
I hope this helps explain (though certainly it doesn’t justify, nor remove the sting) how it is that your loving grandma, your kind natured uncle, and your big-hearted brother can simultaneously be loving/kind/thoughtful… AND… possess such deep hatred for certain kinds of people (or even certain public figures).
To you, as an outside observer, it feels contradictory and confounding.
Yet to them, inside their hearts and minds, it makes a sort of rational “sense.”
And to make things even more challenging, they might even try and insist that, “C’mon, I don’t actually hate those people! That’s a strong word...”
Which takes us to Inadvertent Hate.
But I’ll get to that tomorrow.