This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending 36 hours in Ohio. Apparently they are getting a good deal of presidential election attention. In fact, I came "this" close to being at a joint Paul Ryan rally and Pumpkin Chucking event.
Good times in Ohio. I am sure the election season can't be over soon enough for my Ohio friends.
While I was there I had a good talk with a friend about what seems to be a genuine hatred of President Obama. I realize that during election season there is always some level of mud-slinging and personal attacks, but the tone this year feels different than just trying to sway voters. This year it feels like the disdain and hate of Barack Obama is clogging up whatever free-flow of public debate that was left. I almost don't care about why the hate seems to be so strong and I am not so naive to think we can all "just get along," but I do think this tone has to be challenged and we must all refrain from stoking the fires of hate.
This past week, with my "people really HATE Barack Obama" antenna up, I clicked on an article, "Fear and Loathing in Campaign 2012" by Arthur Goldwag, author of Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies.
The kind of hatred that I'm talking about goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren't looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect.
Now I have been pretty clear that I am not a Romney supporter. I would say that I am an Obama supporter, with a soft spot for Stein. And while I vehemently disagree with what Romney stands for -- marriage equality, immigration, government programs, etc. -- and think his election would be horrible for the United States in so many ways, I can honestly say that I do not hate him. In fact, I am one of those people that does not hate anyone. Be it political, professional, or personal, hate is a waste of my breath, a waste of my energy and a dishonor to God.
- I don't hate the girl who dumped me in high school.
- I don't hate the colleague who I think is incompetent.
- I don't hate George W. Bush, who I believe was a horrendous president.
- I don't hate the person who beat me as a child.
- I don't hate the man who shot and killed my brother-in-law.
Disappointed in, angry with, livid towards, offended by, yes, but hateful toward another?
Hate is a powerful driving force and when repeatedly called upon, it strips us all of our humanity. As a parent, I do not forbid saying the word, but its use never goes unchallenged by a conversation with my children about what they are feeling. Call it hippie-talk, "politically correct" or whatever, but I believe that actions driven by hatred have allowed us to one-dimensionalize one another, and our apathy toward it is tearing our culture and our country apart.
Hate in personal or professional situations has its own set of problems, but in politics hate renders us unable to separate the human being from the politician. One can hate and fight against what someone does or believes, but to hate the human being behind those things is a dangerous place to be for us a individuals or as a country. When hate invades our politics, we begin to create legislation based upon assumptions and understandings that are not driven on a deep understanding of complex issues, but upon how we want to culturally and institutionally hold captive the other.
I understand that at this point, folks who are going to vote against Barack Obama are not going to change their minds. All I am hoping for is that, in the pursuit of the common good, our decisions on Election Day and beyond are made based on disagreement about the issues and not hatred of the individual. For when hate is the lens through which we view the world and form our policies, a cycle of reciprocated hatred by those who are targeted will undoubtedly be the outcome.
When we hate we all lose, no matter who gets elected.
For more by Bruce Reyes-Chow, click here.
For more on the spirit, click here.