Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Case for Hatred and the Power of Forgiveness.

Hatred exists; therefore, it must have a purpose, right? Maybe, even if its only purpose is to make love possible, since everything requires its opposite in order to function ...yin/yang sort of thing.

However, more than likely, hatred exists in order to protect us from harm as we've evolved through time. It's hard to distinguish between anger and hatred; except to say that anger is usually a reaction to a situation, an individual/ group of people, or frustration, whereas hatred could be defined, not so much as a reaction, but as a result of not allowing our angry reaction to die. Hatred is more calculating, conscious, and long-term.

Hate occurs when we refuse to let go of our anger that was aroused by a feeling of being wronged in some way. Instead of forgetting our angry experience(s), we engage our mental capacity to retain and revive facts, events, impressions, etc., and recall previous situations that triggered those angry feelings. Hatred, therefore, serves a very important purpose because at certain times/situations, self-preservation requires that we passionately remember our anger.

The bottom line: there is no avoiding this overwhelming feeling. We must, as sentient creatures, decide if and when hatred is appropriate, and if not, we must figure out how to transcend these strong feelings that are hard-wired into our brains from birth. It's not an easy task.

Not to long ago, sitting in traffic, I was thinking about a "friend" who had double-crossed me. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. As my anger and "hatred" (or what I thought was hatred) of this person increased, I was all set to do something I should have done a long time ago to protect myself from financial hardship.

Then, as I listened to Hector's story, A Father Finds Peace in Forgiving Daughter's Killer on NPR's StoryCorps on the radio, all of my anger and hatred dissipated. After all, Hector, who had every reason in the world to hate ended up forgiving the man who murdered his daughter. What right did I have to my hatred and anger? By the time, I reached my destination, my desire to act provoked by my malevolent feelings had evaporated, for better or worse, and I did not act. In this specific situation with this specific person, I think it worked out for the best, but in different circumstances, with different "actors" letting go of the hatred that provoked me to act may have sealed an unfortunate ending.

Anger, all by itself, may not be enough in some cases, because anger has its limits and once the angry reaction wears off, what then?

Extreme situations, when life becomes almost impossible, such as when a person or a group of people is literally smothering under oppressive circumstances; hatred could serve as indispensable, motivating people to do what is necessary to either save their lives or escape the crushing conditions they are experiencing.

An African American writer about prisoners:

‘It’s easy for folks who have enough to eat, homes, land, work, to preach about forgiveness. But is it fair to preach it to people living in hellholes, jobless, starving? Are they to forgive the fat well-fed millions who voted for their starvation? Who voted for war? Who voted for prisons? Who voted for a people’s repression? Who wish, in their heart of hearts, that those people had never been born? Should the starving forgive the repression to come, the genocide to come?’
Lance Morrow, on September 12, 2001 wrote a piece in Time Magazine called The Case for Rage and Retribution making the case for the purpose of hatred.
“A day cannot live in infamy without the nourishment of rage. Let's have rage. What's needed is a unified, unifying, Pearl Harbor sort of purple American fury'a ruthless indignation that doesn't leak away in a week or two, wandering off into Prozac-induced forgetfulness or into the next media sensation.
Let America explore the rich reciprocal possibilities of the fatwa. A policy of focused brutality does not come easily to a self-conscious, self-indulgent, contradictory, diverse, humane nation with a short attention span. America needs to relearn a lost discipline, self-confident relentlessness' and to relearn why human nature has equipped us all with a weapon (abhorred in decent peacetime societies) called hatred.”
Justified or not, Mr. Morrow certainly has a way with words. Hatred is the most dangerous weapon  in our emotional arsenal and must be handled with extreme care. We need to monitor our hatred constantly, asking ourselves if it is serving any purpose, and if so, we must be extremely cautious that any action it may provoke helps the situation at hand and does not exacerbate the problem.

As much as I admire Mr. Morrow's literary composition, I don't agree with his call for hatred after 9/11, as I believe hatred serves no purpose in a nation as powerful as ours. Hatred should be reserved for the weak and powerless, the underdog, as sometimes its their only hope, and even then, hatred can spiral out of control and drain the humanity of the souls it consumes.

If everyone followed Hector's example and transformed the powerful emotion of hatred, once it served its purpose, to the even more powerful emotion of forgiveness, as he did, hatred could assume its proper place in the complex intricately woven tapestry of emotion that makes us who we are.


bill,  11:44  

i have a couple kids. hatred is empowering. little kids say, if allowed, "i hate you" to their parents when they feel their own power has been usurped.

yet i would never say "i hate you" to them as i know i have all the power in the relationship. when they tell me they hate me, i don't take i personally because i know it's their only way of asserting themselves.

hatred is a necessary evil for those who are disempowered for it gives them the strength they wouldn't ordinarily have.

those in power should have no use for hatred because when one has power already, hatred can only be destructive.

Anonymous,  22:11  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roth's stepchild 15:07  

I couldn't agree more. When a parent reacts passionately to a child's declaration of hatred, that parent is teaching that child what a powerful tool he has in his - as I said before - emotional arsenal. And believe me, he will use it again, if not against his parents, against those who may not pose as much of a threat.

And you're right. Hatred in the hands of the powerful can only serve destructive purposes.

Anonymous,  01:58  

As more and more people struggle in an economy that appears as if it's only going to get worse, there is no doubt that hatred will continue to escalate as people look for scapegoats.

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