For the last few months I have been repeatedly astonished by the levels of hate I’ve seen thrown at our now President and his supporters. Even those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump but didn’t vote for Clinton or Sanders have been deemed traitor as well. This out right intolerance has been sanctioned because of the age old excuse “they deserve it.” As children we learn that that bullying because we perceive that someone else “started it” is unacceptable. We learn that we have to find ways to get along even under circumstances where dueling perceptions are present because, as the adults told us, the one we dislike at the moment isn’t all good or all bad. Clearly this construct has been thrown out by many who think they “stand” for peace.
Who am I to judge the judgers? For weeks recently I too struggled with my own hate. It’s a force that dwells within each of us and to pretend any single individual can overcome it is folly. Evil never goes away after all. It just changes hands, locations, and talking points. Nazism never left the world. It just moved the brightest and best of its technical prowess to the US and other European countries. These people became regarded scientists and strategists in their new homes. They remained quiet publically but kept their beliefs. Just check out H&R Block’s new “Watson” to get a real glimpse of how much we’ve accepted and forgotten. No, we never fully escape evilness. Instead it just becomes a marketing tool for taxes almost 80 years later.
When I saw myself staying tense, resentful, and bitter at protesters of late, I had to stop and take a look into my heart. In Jeremiah 17 we learn that heart is deceitful above all things. All things?! It may seem depressing to think that we as individuals can’t really rise above our own hate on our own. In the past I’ve tried multiple tactics to transcend my own dishonesty, hate, and hypocrisy. Many years ago I tried self-help programs and books, spirituality seminars and even activism, to make myself a different and always hate free version of myself. Usually someone or something would piss me off & I’d be back at square one, hating myself for hating. No one thing or ideology could change my sometimes stony heart.
After accepting Jesus my heart truly changed. It became easier to forgive and love. I can’t explain why or how. So I was taken aback at my own contempt after the election. I guess it stemmed from fearing for my wife’s safety after our car got keyed for having a Jesus fish on it. And then after protesters endangered and delayed citizens trying to home again and again. And then after friend after so-called friend disappeared because we didn’t vote according to their dictates. My continual dismay at the hypocrisy of my liberal sisters and brothers began to poison my thoughts. Slowly my heart became a stony place again and I was left asking God for help. He answered of course.
This problem of hate, bigotry and intolerance, practiced by those who claim love and righteousness is as old as Cain and Abel. As my wife says “Cain tried to be a vegan and then killed his brother.” Jealousy and hate invaded Cain. His story of course is ours in many ways. How often do we symbolically assassinate the entirety of a person because of something we don’t like about what they did or said? How about a cluster of things said and done? Well then supposedly that’s okay, especially in the name of the “greater good.”
…evil mostly comes from those who want to impose good on others. -Tzvetan Todorov
We contribute to evil when we hate our supposed enemies. Certainly if someone is threatening my family I will protect them. Certainly if someone is being rude I don’t have to like it. And of course if I’m highly concerned about an elected leader and their constituents, I’ll keep tabs on what is going on. But using the word enemy in the above scenarios is simply hate masquerading as self protection. The person who threatens my family is likely a lost criminal. The rudeness from a stranger is likely someone having a crappy day. The politician and his followers may have varied and nuanced opinions beyond the narratives media presents. Perhaps we have fewer enemies than we think.
When we decide that someone deserves our hate and deem them an enemy because they voted differently than us, we are the ones who lose. We lose the vulnerability we need to find the places where love can be shared between us. I recently watched the liberal mayor of my town, whom I don’t agree with on most things and certainly didn’t vote for, sit down with a local conservative talk radio host. They disagreed on just about everything, but sit down they did. They even shook hands not once but twice. The conservative leaning audience applauded the mayor for his candor and willingness to be there. At that moment I saw no enemies but people, doing their best with what they think they know.
Absolutely some conservatives can be and have been hateful. Yet the real hypocrisy comes from those who suggest we resist hate, while…I dunno burn a sigh that says FREE SPEECH. Or rally folks to honk for hate. Of course hate never makes much sense. We just have to find ways to live with those who do it from time to time, including ourselves. We have to look into our own hard hearts and at our own compromised moral compasses. We have to stop pretending that we’re better because “they started it” or “they deserve it.” Then we have to be willing to sit down together once in a while…and do what deceased singer George Michael once suggested: listen without prejudice. Only then can we find the forgiveness that lies within each hard heart. Only then can we have a real conversation about peace.
There will never be any peace until we sit together and try over and over and over to give others a chance to be seen as fully human, nuanced, confused, hypocritical, deceitful, forgiving, loving, paradoxical people. Telling loved ones they must think as we do is worse than thought police, it’s a machine that drives wedges into the possibility of truth and love. No one said we have to like each other, but we do share this crazy planet, for better or worse. These times, like all times, are dangerous ones. All it takes is for good people to not only do nothing, but incite rage against a supposed enemy.
For the rest of my life I’ll have to examine my heart and learn to live with those I sometimes can’t understand and even have contempt for at moments. That makes me human. And in spite of my deceitful heart, I’m still grateful God gave me a chance to learn to see my evil and most of the time, rise above it.