Morris: On Not Hating Hate
by Leo Morris
I don’t hate hate.
I don’t know if that makes me an oddball, but it probably marks me as a member of a small minority.
Hating hate, in fact, might turn out to be the one issue that can finally bridge the bitter tribal divide afflicting America these days.
For proof, just consider recent actions by Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. If those august legislative bodies, which are supposed to be the branch of government closest to the people, can so bravely hate hate, it must be that they realize most of their constituents hate hate and want their leaders to stand with them in hating hate.
The Indiana General Assembly, lawmaking for one of only five states without hate crimes legislation, was asked to erase that embarrassing stain by enhancing penalties for those who commit crimes because of a victim’s membership in a protected group as defined by things such as age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
No, no, said Hoosier Republicans. They want to remove the list of protected groups and allow judges to enhance sentences against any criminal whose offense is spurred by bias, no matter what group the victim might belong to.
The U.S. House was urged to pass a resolution criticizing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota for frequent remarks widely regarded as strongly anti-Semitic.
No, no, said House Democrats. Instead, they approved a measure condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, white nationalism and “bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism, and imputations of dual loyalty.”
A beautiful symmetry there.
There are things that are different about the two moves, which can be used to patiently explain to Americans why one (take your pick) is perfectly defensible and rational and the other one is offensive and insulting. That debate is raging all around us, so there isn’t much we can add to it here.
But what’s interesting is what is the same about the two. In each, a political bloc feels pushed by unreasonable opponents to do something it just does not wish to do. Instead of telling the opponents to go stuff it, the response in both cases is to try to diffuse the situation by seeming acquiescence in terms so generalized as to be meaningless.
We don’t just condemn puny, individual acts of bigotry or bias. We abhor the very ugliness behind all such acts. Hate the hate, not the haters!
If I were the cynical sort, I might quote Linus of the Peanuts comic strip, who once told Lucy, “I love mankind . . . it’s people I can’t stand.” It’s so easy to say what we think we’re supposed to say, so hard to do what we know we’re supposed to do.
Or I might repeat the (probably apocryphal) story of President Coolidge, answering his wife’s question about the minister’s topic, “sin,” and her follow-up question about what the minister said on the subject, “He was against it.”
We should take the Hoosier Republicans and the U.S. House Democrats at their word that they wish to elevate us all in a united push to eliminate the scourge of bigotry and bias from the face of the Earth. I would caution everyone, however, to consider that negative emotions serve a purpose and should not be automatically avoided.
All emotions, even ones such as hate, anger and sadness, disappointment, fear and guilt, tell us important things about ourselves and the world we should pay attention to. It’s not the negative emotion that’s wrong, but the target of it that should be scrutinized.
Some things should be feared, because they are dangerous. If we have wronged someone, we should feel guilty. If you can see injustice and not get angry, what’s wrong with you? Who among us can watch those awful public-service ads about abused animals and not feel sad?
Hate is bad only if you hate what you should not. Some things deserve to be hated.
I hate pretension. I hate posturing. I hate condescension. I hate having my precious time wasted.
And yet I spend an inordinate amount of it thinking and writing about politicians.
Now I feel silly.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.