Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's with all the hate??

I'm trying to figure out where all the hate comes from. I am 65, I have seen a lot, and I can't recall a time since the height of the McCarthy era (I was a kid, but I felt the fear) when the volume of hate has been turned up so high.

The Left hates the Right; the Right hates the Left. The rich hate the poor, the poor hate the poor and the rich. Whites hate blacks and blacks hate whites (not all; but meaningful numbers). Christians hate Moslems and Moslems hate Chritians (same caveat applies). People with guns hate the people who want to take them away and they in turn hate people with guns. Jews hate Palestinians and Palestinians hate Jews. Italians hate Chinese and Chinese hate Italians. It goes on and on and on. None of this is particularly new, but the conflation of it all and the volume at which it plays is hair-raisingly new.

Where does it all come from? What makes it OK for Carl Paladino to threaten to “take out” Fred Dicker? When did taking out people who bug you become a legitimate part of public political discourse? Yet we live in an age when even the President's dog-training style comes under critical scrutiny, as if it mattered.

But for the moment I'm not as interested in the politics as in the hatred itself. It is toxic. What is it and where did it come from?

The economy has a lot to do with it. At the same time that it is increasingly difficult to live for the majority of people, a thin stratum of billionaires have individually more wealth than great kindgoms and entire countries, past and present. Anger and desperation are kindling for hatred; history has proven that time and time again.

Then there are the Hatred professionals on the radio; the loudest and most shameless are conservatives. At least the gadflies of the Left are smart and sly; they don't peddle hate. They play it for laughs. The Hate from the right is painted with a broad brush, it is outspoken and specific. To hate has become OK; it is a partisan badge of valor. “I not only disagree with you, I hate your fucking guts.”

But these are symptoms; I'm concerned with the cause of the disease itself. I used to work with a guy named George who had been around the block many times, and was, in his own way, a formidable survival machine. Every morning at work I would say “Hi George, how ya doing?” and he would reply with a smile “every day above ground is a good day.” When I would get angry at a co-worked for what I perceived was some incompetence or sabotage, George would say, “don't hate. It takes too much out of you.” And he said to mutual friend one day, “Mellman hates,” part apology, part explanation. It took a long time to realize he was right, and by then I was thousands of miles away and three lives later.

It's tempting to be glib and say hatred turned outward is merely being deflected by the ego's hard armor from its true inward object, oneself. To watch self-hatred turned into hatred of gays listen to Bishop Eddy Long in his designer suits spewing hatred at gays and feminists. Or Andrew Shirvell, the so-gay so-closeted Assistant DA in Michigan stalking the attractive and openly gay UM Student Body President. The contradictions are so apparent as to be almost parody.

Whence the hatred directed toward the President of the United States? It is vicious, virulent and blind. People long ago stopped listening to reason when they refused to acknowledge his birth certificate. That is only the most egregious example of a growing refusal to look at facts. The Grand Canyon was the result of Noah's Flood; if science proves otherwise, science is wrong. The Creationists hate the Darwinians and Darwinians hate Creationists; in truly American fashion they become two opposed teams in game which can be won politically, to the detriment of both.

The debate over abortion has consistently released lethal levels of hatred. In 1994 Rev. Paul Hill murdered Dr. James Garrett and his bodyguard. Self-proclaimed Christians have murdered nine abortion workers since 1994. Many things are forgivable – even by their own logic – but murder is not one of them. Yet it's OK to murder an abortionist.

The self-hatred turned outward notion is facile and not entirely satisfying. It begs the question, then why is there so much self-hatred?

That is, I think where it gets most interesting; where discussions of the role and character of organized religions comes into play. But hatred is hatred, whether directed inward or outward. It is the superlative of dislike and it is the opposite of love.

Yesterday I watched “The Passion According to St. Matthew” made in 1964 by the gay Italian communist film director Pier Paolo Passolini. I remembered it from its first brief run and it popped up on Netflix. It is an amazing film on many levels; it is filmed in a new wave/cinema verité style; the actors are non-professionals; it is in black and white, filmed in ancient hill towns of southern Italy, sun-scorched and rocky. It is entirely believable, humble in its approach, spartan in its imagery, and startling in its emotional impact. It shows how miracles are the distillation of love. What it said to me was that anger must yield to love before it turns to hatred, and from hatred to despair and violence.

Pasolini was a gay communist and he got it right. Compare and contrast with Mel Gibson's lurid orgy of violence and anti-semitism. I'll take Pasolini.

Back on topic, I'm serious. I can't know what to do about it until I know what it is; we can't know what to do about it until we understand it and figure out what to do about it. If you have any thoughts, please share them. It's bigger than me; I don't know that I can understand it myself.