Hatred Burns

Inside me an image is burning.

Today we heard news that a cross was burned on a lawn in Nova Scotia.  A bi-racial couple lived in the house .  The gesture was aimed at them.  Not at who they are as people – its doubtful that the burners and yellers care to know who they really are – but at what they are in someone else’s mind.  It seems that someone hates the idea of them, and they are using a powerful symbol to express how they feel.

What could cause such hatred?  What allow it to be expressed?

Whenever and wherever hatred is spoken, against any person or any group, it spreads like poison through the world we live in, and provides fodder and fuel for the ignorant and angry .  And as it does so it builds division and fear – in both the haters and the hated.  Hatred, as we have seen over and over again, has the ability to tear our world apart.

For some, it has this advantage.  Hatred is lazy – it is much easier to hate than to think.  Much easier to feel and act on that one sensation than learn to live with the complexity of life.  The hater can simply take whole groups of people, lump them together as one, and focus all their anger and contempt on them.

Our leaders have a role to play.  When they choose to act in hateful ways, when they make personal attacks or speak disdainfully of whole groups of people, that gives others permission to think the same way, and to express such hateful thoughts loudly and proudly.  Those who are leaders set the tone for those inclined to follow; and there will, as we can see, always be those that follow.   Following too is easier.

Among those who feel hatred there will be some who take the next logical step.  Thinking that others find their feelings acceptable and reasonable, they will move from hateful words to hateful action.  And therein lies the greatest danger, the one that faces us all.

Are those leaders who show and encourage contempt responsible for these kinds of actions, actions based on the perception that such contempt is normal, and hateful expressions correct?

It is something I am thinking about.

7 responses to “Hatred Burns

  1. Hatred comes from an unconscious mind. When we make an effort to communicate with and understand those we perceive as different, issues of prejudice will fade. Until then, we’re sadly stuck in a world of unconscious and misunderstanding people… some of whom are demented enough to act on their hatred in ways like this.

    The more people we have who wake up and join hands with all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or creed, the sooner we’ll get to that hundredth monkey effect and the world of hatred will fail and be replaced by the world of love.

  2. years ago, i met a man in Houston, Texas. he introduced himself to me at an outdoor cafe and we talked for awhile in the sunshine. at some point, in the course of the conversation, i mentioned “hating” something or other. it was completely casual and just tumbled from my mouth as so many words do.
    he smiled and asked me to reconsider.
    what? reconsider what? i asked.
    reconsider HATE, he replied, and then went on to tell me he’d dedicated his life to educating people about the power of language and to ERADICATING THE WORD “HATE” from common usage.
    this was a very powerful encounter for me and your thoughts on the recent cross-burning cause this stranger’s message to come rushing back.
    i’m going to re-raise my own awareness about casual use of the word HATE and see if i can articulate my thoughts and feelings instead of reaching for a simple, and painful, four letter word.

  3. I think that your point about hateful words becoming hateful actions is a cause & effect scenario. The Buddha said: ““We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” To imagine that we can be filled with hateful thoughts & that those those thoughts will not become intentions & that those intentions will not become actions is folly. When bias & prejudice are given the least sanctuary in our thoughts–the smallest degree of tolerance–we leave the door open to the horrors of genocide. One leads the other.

    Thank you for this thought provoking piece dealing with an ugly incident, dear one.

  4. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. We so often excuse our thoughts by saying that we don’t act on them, forgetting that they still have an impact on our own attitudes and on the attitudes and actions of those around us. We do not know the full story behind the actions that prompted me to write this, but somehow, someone somewhere made those who did it believe that they had the right to behave this way. Thankfully there are many other voices speaking out now to say that what they did was wrong, and to offer support to the family. A juxtaposition of hatred and compassion…

  5. Astoundingly prophetic, Margaret, given the current events in the US, and odd (or serendipitous?) that I would select this article to read from the archives because it was written in February. As you point out so eloquently, fear and hatred are powerfully destructive emotions, and such an effective way to keep people divided from others who share similar exclusion and suffering.

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