Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why do we love to hate?

Andy Borowitz, in his frequent, sends out faux news bulletins that are often fine (and funny) examples of satire, in contrast to much of the cynical humor that passes for satire in the media. I recommend him to anyone unfamiliar with his work.

In his post for Oct. 8, Borowitz announces a "poll" showing that the possibility of a race between a black man and a Mormon for president in 2012 poses a dilemma for that part of the voting public who hate both groups. Their only source of relief: no woman is in the race, or so it seems at this still early date.

We may smile or laugh at such a bit of "news," but the truth is that hatred, which usually goes by some other name, comes naturally to many people. Perhaps that's why the Christian principle of "love thy neighbor" is often impossible for many to follow.

Early on, we learn to put others down in an effort to mask our own insecurities and feel (however briefly) more powerful. There is always some group--those different from us--who can be condescendingly accepted or rather--because more fun--castigated as inferior, unworthy, etc. In short, we love to hate, and history is replete with examples of one group hating others enough to kill them.

I recall the chilling short story by Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery," which seems to suggest that traditions in general are to blame, though the story is open to many and varied interpretations. Her fable takes place in a small, all-American town where the annual custom is for the townsfolk to select a lottery "winner" to be stoned to death by everyone else. The elders warn that breaking this ancient custom is wrong, but the younger generations do not protest; they carry on this horrifying ritual, perhaps because they need an outlet for their fears.

I see fear as the greatest threat to everyday happiness and civilization. Fear (of the stranger) can quickly turn to anger, which turns to hate and often to violence: this is the pattern found in racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hatred, each of which gives the hater a reason for living. The white supremacist has learned that hatred can be a kind of energy, a source of fufillment.

At least such racists tend to be open about their feelings, unlike so many in the voting population today, who are full of a resentment that they cloak in patriotic or Christian garb. They end up hating in the name of religion or ideology and as such end up repeating some of the worst lessons, which they never learned, from the past.

The study of hatred shows how much harder loving is than hating. Hating others, as any schoolboy bully knows, requires little effort. Teaching one another how to respect, accept, and love one another more fully is what education and religion should be about.

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