Hate flared into the national psyche with the massacre at an Orlando nightclub. It was an act of evil, of terrorism. Its brutality and inhumanity can only be condemned in the strongest terms, as we weep for the victims and their families.
Now, the pundits on social media are full of causes and solutions. So many of us are pointing fingers and applying labels. We are arguing. We are blaming. We are uncivil.
We are saying, “I told you this would happen,” and we are feeling rather self-righteous about it. We are echoing each new post from others who think like us. We don’t want to change, or cooperate. You must be entirely wrong, and I must be entirely right.
So, we condemn each other. We hate each other.
Even as we complain about the toxic atmosphere, we’re breathing out the fumes that poison it. Our response to an act of hate has revealed a measure of hate in the rest of us. As long as we maintain an attitude of superiority over other people, and use it to build a wall between us, we are simply feeding hate. And when we feed it in ourselves, we are feeding it in our kids.
We are not, however, doing the things that would counter hate: loving, listening, and learning how to find commonality in each other.
Jesus gave a rather startling instruction in Matthew 5: “You have heard, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who hate you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven…. If you love only those who love you, if you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Everybody does that.”
Paul reinforced this in Romans 12: “Bless those who hate you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Do everything that you can to live at peace with everyone. Don’t be conquered by evil, but conquer evil by doing good.”
This is not what we see online.
Hate is more efficient than love. Hate comes easily to us. It doesn’t require us to change, though it changes us. It doesn’t require us to leave our comfort zones. In fact, hate reinforces the walls around us while hoping to crush everything outside those walls.
Showing love to somebody, especially somebody uncomfortably different from us, is more difficult. It requires us to change ourselves, to step outside our walls, and to go unfamiliar places as an emissary of peace and mutual benefit. Love also means not reverting to hate if your peace is met with rudeness, but rather persevering in love.
In arguments about what happened in Orlando, I see people retrenching and shoring up their walls, as sure of their own rightness as they are sure of their opponent’s wrongness. And yet nearly everybody has a piece of the truth. For example, all of the following are true statements about the Orlando shooting:
- Access to guns was a cause.
- Mental instability was a cause.
- Homophobia was a cause.
- Religious belief was a cause.
- Social disconnection was a cause.
Most arguments seem to be around which one of these is the primary cause, and then insisting that’s the only problem we need to fix. For example, some people focus on the shooter’s religion, and their solution is to ban everybody who follows that religion. Other people focus on the shooter’s access to firearms, and their solution is to ban guns. Others focus on the shooter’s mental health. Generally, each group insists its solution is the only one that will work.
A peaceful approach would recognize that all of these are relevant in some measure, and working on one does not preclude working on another. They can be resolved in parallel.
We all agree things need to change. The first thing needs to be how we talk about change. Do we really want to solve the problem of mass shootings? Then we need to be “all hands on deck” rather than “winner takes all” — or else, there will soon be no winners, and no deck, left to debate.
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