I’m very familiar with hate. In fact, I was a very hateful person before I converted to Christianity. Hate was pretty much the only thing I knew how to feel. The only thing I understood, and this isn’t an exaggeration, was how to hate. I hated everyone and everything. The only thing I wanted was to see people hurt. So, I understand hate. It makes sense to me, and I understand what it can do to people.
I’ve had some comments on one of my posts from a few days ago (honestly though, the fact that this blog has generated any interest whatsoever amazes me) that are fairly hostile. Not just hostile to the ideas in the post, but hostile to me personally. The hostility doesn’t surprise me, as I said, I’m familiar with hate, but the responses rather do. However, this highlights one of the major problems in today’s civil discourse. So often it seems impossible for people to disagree respectfully.
I teach an ethics class in which we discuss the issue of Hate Speech, and in that class I get a lot of students whose response is simply ‘why can’t people just be nice to each other’. Honestly, I often laugh at these students (quietly and to myself) because of their naivety. However, they ask a good question. Why can’t we be nice to each other? Why do we seem incapable of disagreeing respectfully?
Some of this is simply that we are completely insecure as a nation and as individuals. We are utterly and completely afraid of everything, and we can’t seem to get over that. Many of us seem to think that personal insults are a valid part of reasoned argument, and that disagreement is an act of hate. This then breeds a hateful response intended not simply to refute, but to injure. Another part of it is that many of us are so arrogant that we can’t respect any opinion that varies from our own. Many people, on either side of every major argument, utter some form of the phrase, ‘If you disagree with me then you are clearly a terrible person!’ I know wonderful people who are pro-choice, and wonderful people who are pro-life. I know wonderful people who are pro-gay marriage, and wonderful people who are pro-traditional marriage, and wonderful people who don’t think the issue matters in the slightest. I know wonderful pacifists and wonderful militants. I know wonderful democrats, wonderful republicans, and wonderful independents. There are good people on both sides of all of the major arguments, and we often fail to see that completely. The thing is, there are also bad people on both sides of all of the major arguments.
Ad hominem attacks have become so much a part of our everyday discourse that they seem natural. The problem is that these attacks do nothing to actually advance our ideas, and they do everything to shut down conversation. There is not one group that is innocent of this today: Christians do it, Muslims do it, Atheists do it, Republicans, Democrats, Skeptics, Enviromentalists, you name the group and there are plenty of people that hate their opponents, and plenty of people who confuse those who disagree with those who hate. A part of this is because hate sees hate, even when it isn’t there.
There is plenty of hate in the world without adding our own. Heck, even anti-hate groups spread hate (have you read some of the the SPLC puts out?). Instead of seeing hate in those who disagree, and then responding with hate of our own, we should respond to hate with love. We should love those who hate us, hard as that is.
The thing is, it is hard to love the people who hurt us, hard to love the people who hate us, and often hard to tell the difference between the two. Regardless, our job is to love both, and to show that love at all times. So, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m really not entirely sure how yet, but it’s what I want to do.
You see, the thing is that I’m not really sure I can respond in love, and actually respond. Not to say that it would be impossible to lovingly and carefully refute the claims without attacking the individuals, I’m just not sure that I can do it right now, and even if I could, I’m not sure that the individuals would see it that way.
So, I sit here wondering if it would be more loving to simply do nothing, or to attempt an amiable refutation. Sometimes I wonder if any refutation can be seen as amiable in modern society, certainly this doesn’t seem to be the case. Obviously I haven’t let these comments through, and I don’t plan to. Honestly, right now I’m not sure if I’m going to let any comments through. Of course you’re always welcome to submit comments, but I’m not really sure I’m going to actually post anyone’s comments.
I’ve said several times that I’m treating this blog as a personal journal, and I don’t know that I really want comments cluttering up my journal. All in all, I have some thinking to do before I decide how to handle them.