Monday, January 12, 2015

Is hatred really a problem?

Everyone, including me, agrees that the Westboro Baptist Church is a hate group. In a sense, even members of Westboro Baptist agree in that they openly hate others.

At the same time, there is a great rush after every terrorist atrocity on the part of some to establish that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at the very least, it ought to be when "properly understood".  That is not quite so crystal clear as the claim that Westboro Baptist is a hate group but let's take it as read for the sake of argument.

The problem then is that not a single person has been killed or even bruised in the name of Westboro Baptist. Hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed or injured in the name of Islam this year alone and it's only January 12 as I write this.

When I was four years old my mother, like every mother of her era, taught me to say and think that, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."

That's not empirically true. You can be, and lots of people are, hurt by name calling. But you can be hurt only if you let the names hurt you. You have to co-operate—at least passively by not building up a resistance to being hated—in order to be hurt. (That was what my mother really wanted me to learn.) Bullets and bombs, OTOH, always hurt and there isn't much you can do about it other than hurting the people who want to physically hurt you so badly that they can't act.

It's time to relearn that lesson.

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