Stopping the Hate

Once again the country is shocked and saddened by an act of hate taking the lives of 49 innocent people. Once again there is finger pointing and blame as the same question arises – why? Why is always the question everyone wants answered. And when the violator dies during the altercation, they cannot be asked – why did you do this? No few theories are discussed at length as the perpetrator’s life and actions are examined to find the elusive motive. We hope that if we can learn the reason an atrocity was committed, the root cause of the horrific effect, then just maybe we can find a way to stop the next one. We want a simple answer – this was the reason, therefore that is the solution. As with most of these instances, there is no simple solution. The causes are often complex and intertwined, the path to the effect a winding one which might have been interrupted any number of times, but was not.I think there is a root cause in all of these, and it is at the same time both the hardest and simplest of causes. Hate. Hate of others, hate of oneself. In our digital age, anyone whose heart is filled with rage and hate, for whatever reason, can find a group on the internet who will tell them they are right and those they hate are wrong and should be destroyed. Whether the hate is based on religion, skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any number of other things, there are those who will reinforce that hate, and feed on it.

Hate is not something we are born feeling. It is taught – by people, by experiences and circumstances, by society. An individual who feels hopeless, angry, lost and victimized, (especially if in addition there is untreated mental instability), the path to self-hatred and hatred of a group perceived as causing their misfortune, is easy to find.

Hate cannot be battled with an army. It cannot be stomped out with a policy change. And we cannot wait for hate to be defeated by someone else. Hate must be combated with words and actions of kindness, respect, and yes, love. Supporting groups who combat hate is a large way to interrupt the cycle. Small ways include speaking up when someone near you denigrates a group with hateful jokes or comments. The smallest equally important way, is the how we treat others one on one. The example we set with everyone we run into in our daily lives.

We all connect to varying degrees with so many people each day, and you never know when the kind word or gesture you do changes a life, just a little, but maybe just enough. A kind word to the service worker who was clearly having a bad day may seem simple. Yet it can interrupt the cascade of negativity that person was experiencing, perhaps giving both their spirit and their day a reboot and a chance to improve. On their way home, they would have been driving angry, hating their job and life, distracted by their horrible day. Instead they’re in a little better place, driving more attentively, and so they notice the child who just ran in front of their car, and hit the break in the nick of time. There is no telling the effect saving that child’s life might have on our service worker, but we can guess the effect hitting the child would have had. We don’t know the effect on the child’s parent or sibling, but perhaps it spurs a greater appreciation of the life which was nearly lost, and a parent in crisis finally calls for help. And then there is the effect on the child itself. Changing a moment, can change a life. It doesn’t matter whether anyone makes the connection back to that kind word which improved a person’s day. It is impossible to ever know the full impact one human being has on another.

I know there are still many official measures which can and should be implemented on a larger, governmental scale to combat the effects of hate. I am not so naive as to think all we have to do is be nice to one another and the violence will stop. The government should continue to take measures to stop the evil actions of hate whenever possible. I’m just trying to remind us all that kind words and actions, no matter how small, can have profound consequences one will never know about. Any one of us can be the first domino to fall, which changes a life somewhere along the line. A friend of mine, Kathy Mar, often calls for kindness on her Facebook page, and shares stories of kindness making a difference. I wonder how many small acts of kindness she has sparked which have been that first domino.

Orlando showed what one person with hate in his heart can do. Then it showed what thousands with love in their hearts could do. There are more good people in this world then there are hateful ones. It doesn’t feel that way sometimes, until a tragedy makes the good ones glow all the brighter. Each one of us can be our own small light in someone else’s darkness. Respect, empathy and ordinary kindness. Small but important ways to interrupt hate.

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