Do you know what it's like to hate?
I know what it's like to hate. To hate Muslims. To hate gays. To hate drug users. To hate inner city young men.
I know what it's like to be motivated by that hate.
I know what it's like to come across a website advocating for the legalization of marijuana, and urge a police detective to take it down.
I know what it's like to see an Arabic name on a Coast Guardsman's jacket, and consider turning him in as a possible terrorist.
I know what it's like to watch a city in flames, and only think of how much I support the American troops doing that, because 3,000 dead Americans were enough to excuse thousands of dead Iraqi, Afghanistani, and Pakistani civilians.
I know what it's like to cross the street when I saw an inner city youth, and to sit across the room when I saw a gay or a lesbian.
As you may have guessed by now, all of this was me. All of these are actions I took. Shameful, hateful, hurtful actions.
Sometimes there were reasons.
Watching a businessman fall thousands of feet, tie flapping in the wind, as a tower burns in the distance, an image forever burnt in my mind. Surprised in my own home by two inner city intruders, who almost killed me, while I've kept a replica of the bullet casing. Indoctrination into oppression by those who have hated longer.
And I know there are others out there like me. Who wanted to see a just world. Who were taught to hate only by those before them, until it becomes an ideology you have to defend, one you are pressured to defend by everyone you know. One that your culture says is okay. That it's not really hate, just a natural reaction, an objective thought, a rational conclusion. A conclusion that will bring about a more just world.
I don't know if it was one thing that changed me. I don't think it was. Maybe it was watching soldiers fire upon civilians, laughing. Maybe it was meeting and working with a muslim for over a year now. Maybe it was watching the destruction of the drug war on innocent lives. Maybe it was knowing my Resident Adviser in college for years, then finding out she was a lesbian and nothing else changed.
Maybe it was when one young black man told me if they protested unarmed and harmed no one, the police would gun them down... and America would be okay with it.
Maybe its that I now realize we are all human.
We all love, hate, fear, and hurt the same. The best of us have our worst parts, and the worst of us have our best parts. Or, as a good friend of mine would say "we're all f'd up somewhere."
So now, when I see a murder, I ask why? When I see violence arise, I ask where did it come from? Where is the oppression, where is the pain that caused these humans to take up arms against another? Now, regardless of their presentation as the most violent thug, hapless criminal, or lowest dreg, I ask what could have been done to help them? How could we have stood in their place, given them a hand up, and keep their best choice from being that to destroy?
I met a young man while in Ferguson, MO who told me how hard it was to get a job as a felon, how hard it is to change your path in life, even when you want to. How each time he applies for a job he has to check a box and knows he will never get a call back. And I heard it over and over again.
Do we hate that much as to not give humans a second chance?
Are we so attached to our criminal justice system, our system of legalized revenge, that it has taught us to view some as no longer human? As no more than a rabid dog, to be kept away from society for as long as they live?
From now on, whether it be the most hardened criminal, or stately priest, the gothic rebel, or faceless soldier, the shopkeeper or the gang member, we are all equal.
Regardless of the part of the world we live in, the colors we fly under, our customs, culture, or language. We are all equal.
There is no one above, and no one below. There are wrong actions, not wrong people. There are dangerous risks, not dangerous souls. From now on, there is no one above, and no one below me. From now on, I view each of you, each of us, as human.
Perhaps if each of us, one at a time, reached another. Stretched out our arms for a hug, dropped a letter to a loved one, spent some time creating a better world.
Perhaps if each of us, one at a time, made a commitment to be human.
Perhaps then we will have true peace.