Every time there’s a hate-driven attack on a group of people, there’s a mad scramble among political groups to score points by framing the attack to support their positions.
If it’s Muslims who are killed by terrorists — as was the case in New Zealand this week — there’s a rush to frame the attack as part of a worldwide conspiracy of hatred against Muslims.
If it’s Jews who are killed by terrorists — as was the case in the Pittsburgh synagogue murders last October — we hear about how anti-semitism is the worst and most common hatred in the world.
If it’s westerners who are killed by terrorists — whether the attackers are white Americans or Middle Eastern Muslims or something else — there’s another of half a dozen narratives.
So we hear all about how white people hate black people. Jews hate Muslims. Black folks hate white folks. Muslims hate Jews and westerners. Neo-Nazis hate everybody who isn’t white. The list goes on and on — and the narrative you listen to is determined by your political allegiances.
The truth is both simpler and more complicated.
It’s complicated to the extent that different individuals and groups have complicated reasons for deciding to hate the people they hate.
They might blame immigrants for their economic decline. They might hate Jews because some bigot told them in childhood that Jews were evil. They might hate white people because they’ve been taught that white people are the source of all oppression. They might hate Muslims because they’ve been taught — over and over — that all Muslims are terrorists who are out to get them.
But the truth is simple because of one simple thing. Every individual who chooses to hate someone else — some group of people — does so because he hasn’t been able to learn to disagree with others in love and peace. He hasn’t learned to treat others as individuals, not as mere pawns to represent some idea he disagrees with.
Most people agree — in the abstract — that there’s too much hatred in the world. Most people are shocked by violence in the name of those hateful feelings. But almost everybody is convinced that his own hatred of groups he disagrees with have nothing to do with the matter.
But you shouldn’t act shocked by hate-filled violence when you also hate those who don’t agree with you.
Many of us see a crisis in public discourse today and we tend to think it’s a problem driven by the fact that we won’t be civil to one another. But it’s more basic than that. It’s driven by the fact that we don’t know how to disagree with one another without quickly moving to hating those with whom we disagree.
Of course, you probably think this is a problem for “the other side,” whichever that might be for you. You probably think that your own hateful feelings toward “right-wing extremists” or “pinko leftie liberals” have come about only because “they started it.”
Do you realize how childish that is? Do you realize that you’re responsible for your own thoughts and actions, not those of others? Do you realize that a mature person can see there’s hate on all sides — and can see that his responsibility is to free himself of this?
The sad truth is that politics has always been about one group of people trying to subjugate everybody else and force those others to act they way “right-thinking people” know is right. Almost everybody in politics today is decided to that idea.
Those on the progressive left are determined to force people to hand over their money to be spent as they see fit. Those on the socially conservative right are determined that their views of social morality and structure must be obeyed. Many people inside those groups — and in other groups — have different things they want to force others to obey.
The common thread is that most everybody in politics thinks other people should be forced to obey them. And when people try to force others to obey them — no matter what the source of disagreement — that causes people to become angry. And that often leads to hatred. In some circumstances, that hatred is expressed as violence.
If you want political hatred and its associated violence to end, stop trying to use political force to get other people to obey you. Stop hating those who disagree with you. Learn to treat people as individuals. Learn to allow people to disagree with you without it turning to hatred.
The truth is that most people aren’t going to do this. They have too much invested in being victims and in believing that everybody else is wrong. So political hatred and violence are going to continue.
But you don’t have to be part of it. You can decide to stop hating others and realize that other people have been taught false and misleading narratives that have led them to hate — and you can be more honest with yourself about the false and misleading narrative that you’ve learned.
If you’re willing to do this, you’ll eventually have to walk away from politics, because you’ll discover that you can’t try to force other people to obey you. But the positive side is that you’ll see political violence in a different way. You’ll start understanding that shooting people for political purposes isn’t so different from using a ballot box to try to force others to obey you.
Shooting someone who you hate for political reasons is a direct expression of hatred and oppression. Electing politicians to force those you hate to obey you is just an indirect expression of hatred and oppression.
If you want to be a mature human being, you have to learn to accept and love those who disagree with you. You have to learn to let them live as they want and simply ask that they let you live as you prefer. You have to learn to either be able to live peacefully among those you disagree with or else how to peacefully separate yourself so each group can live as it prefers.
Political hatred and violence will always continue, but it’s up to you as to whether you will be part of it or not.