06/09/2014 03:49 pm ET Updated Aug 09, 2014

Why We Hate


I'm sitting in a hotel lobby. It's a hotel like many others in a place like many others. I'm people watching, waiting for my cab to arrive. I can't help but notice the scene unfolding at the hotel desk. A customer and hotel receptionist are bitterly arguing, the man becoming livid -- something about the room. I watch the receptionist start to lose her composure and begin shouting back. And then it hits me: When did we all start hating each other? When did the world become so angry?

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps this is merely one man's point of view. But for some reason I feel this issue in my bones -- I feel that this world has become saturated with cynicism and vitriol. Conservatives are idiots. Liberals are morons. We've given up even the appearance of debate, we just yell at each other. Someone else is to blame. If it's not the Muslims' fault then it's the Jews. If it's not the Chinese, it's the Russians. A man opens fire in a crowded center killing people indiscriminately. The media is salivating at the news. More "debate" to follow, which is an assembly of talking heads put together only for the purpose of stoking the flames. Our politicians grandstand and point fingers. I breathe and everything stops.

I feel sick. My muscles are tense. I think back to a shift at the hospital. A young man is in the ICU was hospitalized for a psychotic delirium caused by a cocaine/heroin/who-knows-what overdose. His blood pressure and heart rate is through the roof. He is struggling against the handcuffs that have tied him to the bed. I've been tasked with trying to save his life. I try to talk to him, to explain what's happening. But he is too aggressive, too wild, too angry. "You f%&*ing Paki," he screams at me, "I'm going to kill you." The nurses are petrified as his hands bleed around the handcuffs. His eyes are wild. If he breaks free he's going to beat me to death. I order sedative after sedative and eventually have to intubate him for the safety of the other patients, nurses and myself. My staff physician is there. "I've never seen such an agitated delirium," she says, exasperated. I thought "agitated delirium" was a misdiagnosis -- some people are just a**holes. I'm alone in my call room. My hand is shaking. I breathe, but it won't stop. I breathe again and touch my computer. This is just a memory, and memories have only the power and attention you give them, so I force my mind to change subjects.

"Why do you care?" I ask myself. "So what if half the world hates the other half -- what does it matter to you?" These questions have at their core another question, which is, "What could you do about it even if you did care?"

I don't think I have a logical or scientific answer to these questions. To liberally paraphrase Donne, I am diminished by the loss of anyone because beneath the surface our humanity remains the same. We bleed, we laugh, we love, we die. Why shouldn't I care about others? A few days ago a woman was stoned to death in a part of the world for choosing to love someone her family did not want. How can that not sadden me?

But what can I do? All I have control over is presumably my own actions. And I choose not to point blame or yell. I choose to tell you that while I don't know you -- I don't know if you pray or whom to, I don't know the kind of music you like or what your background is. I don't know whether you're pro-choice or pro-life, Democrat or Republican, a minority or not -- I just want to say I hope you have a good day. I hope you're day is full of joy and laughter and love. And if all you do is silently wish that for someone else you lay eyes on today, I think that will make an incredible difference in this world that is seemingly heavy with hate.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.