The parsimony of hate

It is often said that love and hate are just two sides of the same coin.  Both are intense emotions that can cause people to react in wholly irrational ways.  Both twist our viewpoints and our perception of others.  And both can be utterly exhausting and draining.  The difference is that while love carries with it the possibility of great reward, hatred offers no such satisfaction.  It makes us wish ill on others; it destroys our compassion and our humanity.

Which is why the field of politics is often so frustrating to those of us who don’t swim in its murky waters everyday.  While I’m a long-time observer I am, by choice, limited in my role as a belligerent for any side other than that of liberty for myself and my fellow man.  There was a time when I drank from the kool-aid bowl that is conservative politics; I was a daily consumer of Rush, Beck, and Hannity.  I was daily instructed that liberals were anti-American and evil.  It made me feel like I was one of the Good Guys fighting to protect America.

But after a time, I began to see what was going on.  It finally took the election of Obama to make it all clear.  Feelings and opinions on both the left and the right switched overnight.  The left quickly became pro-war and didn’t give a wit about civil liberties.  The right became unhinged with disgusting conspiracy theories, aspersions about Obama’s religion, and opposition to his policies even when they mirrored those of his predecessor.  Government spending, which ballooned to gargantuan levels under Bush, suddenly became a national emergency.  It was clear that the right had its very own version of derangement, and it repulsed me.

Yet when one dips one’s toes into the political waters daily, it is still possible to become inured to the ugliness that often pervades that world.  Sometimes, though, there comes an event that brings out the worst in people.  Such an event happened yesterday with the sudden, tragic death of conservative icon Andrew Breitbart.  Now, to be entirely frank, I did not like this man and found his methods often very objectionable.  But he was by no accounts an evil man.  He did what he did because he felt it best for his country.  And above all, he was a friend, a husband, and a father.

One glance at much of the left-leaning world, though, and you’d think we was literally flying a blimp over the nation spraying toxic gas on innocent citizens.  The Twitter world was flooded with liberal-leaning folks openly celebrating his death.  Even supposedly “respectable” sites and magazines reacted to Brietbart’s death with glee.  After all, who cares if he left a wife, four children and countless friends?  He was on the other side!  He worked for the other team!

Of course, if one is honest, the right would react the same way were it a liberal icon like Michael Moore.  One only has to look at the comments of Rush Limbaugh this week towards a “feminazi” he disagreed with, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute”.  Those are nasty words to use for any woman, let alone one whose only crime is differing in politics.  And it’s hardly out of the ordinary.  This kind of language is used every day on both sides, usually against people that the speaker doesn’t even know.  Merely disagreeing is warrant to judge the person’s morality and worth.

And the emotion that strikes me the most when I see hate on both sides towards political opponents?  Deep sadness.  I am sad for my country that we’ve been told to hate those who disagree.  I am sad for my friends who have come to believe that liberals/conservatives are literally bad people who want to cause harm.  I am sad that I at one time bought into this poison (though I’m glad I left it).

Above all, I am sad that millions of my fellow Americans are wasting their hatred on each other simply because they play for the “other team”.  It’s a profoundly stupid reason to dislike someone.  If you are going to spend this kind of emotional energy on someone, they’d damn well better be someone who actually harmed you, not just voted for the other guy.  I hate criminals who prey on the weak.  I hate terrorists who blow up innocents.  And I’m supposed to feel that same way against someone for having the wrong letter after their name?

It’s awful and it has to end.  It’s tearing us apart and turning neighbor against neighbor, brother against sister, parent against child.  And it’s all in order to make us get out and vote for one wretched “team” over another.  Well, I’m long through with it.  I’m saving my hate for those who deserve it.  We’d all be better off as people, and as a nation, if we did the same.