Do we have the right to hate?

A lack of talking is not the problem. It's a lack of a conversation. And that requires a remarkable amount of tolerance for things that make us uncomfortable.

It’s as predictable as the day is long. Some softie (like lil’ ole me) comes out with some diatribe about how we need to learn how to communicate better. And one of my friends will come back with “That’s not the problem. We’ve BEEN talking about this. ‘They’ don’t want a conversation.” (Actually I said this myself a couple weeks ago.)

And of course that’s very often absolutely true. Name the issue (currently racism and race relations comes to mind) that we’ve heard that we need to FINALLY have a conversation about. Many of us hear this and think, “Haven’t we been talking about this forever?" And often the “conversation” that so many have in mind is really just another way of pushing a narrative — a new one sometimes, or often the same old one — one that we should agree to, unequivocally, if we want to be in the “conversation.”

One thing is objectively true: race and race relations (for instance) has been at the forefront of our political debates since before I was born. There is no shortage of… voices, of ink (and petabytes of data), of rhetoric, personalities, and politicians. But just because we’re talking… even loudly or passionately… doesn’t mean that we’re having a conversation. There is no exchange of ideas if you consider the person speaking invalid as a human (“deplorables” and “snowflakes” are terms that we’ve heard), and unworthy of your attention, understanding, and compassion.

There is a video that is circling around the Facebooks by “an Irish poet”… (caution, there is some cursing on this video, so though this is a PG-13 site, I’m setting a bad precedent by linking to a video with numerous F bombs) in which, though it starts off with some rather eye-rolling stuff about ‘globalists,’ is nevertheless a heartfelt rant about the current state of affairs and the assumptions that people make about each other:

https://www.facebook.com/houseoffire/videos/10222779574579250/

What struck immediately was the title: “The Right to Hate”…. it hit me in the face like a wet squirrel: do we have the right to hate? The poem is mostly about love, yet it’s entitled “The Right to Hate.” It reminded me of a story from a couple years ago about a black man who spent YEARS befriending KKK members to get them to hang up their robes:

https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes

We’re not privy to those initial conversations between this guy and all those Klan members, but my hunch is that those initial interactions entailed one basic premise: giving the people he talked to the right to think the way they think and to feel the way they feel. And over time, they (likely) determined that their ire was misplaced and focused on the wrong things.

So is it true? Do we have the right to hate? Do we have the right to have an opinion that is vile and uncivilized? What would be the result of that acknowledgement in the long term?

Count me in the camp of those who believe it’s not only necessary to accept those who “hate” as human beings, but that if their ideas are so bad, their exposure to analysis and reason is a net good. This means the wielders of these ideas must be allowed to speak and be treated like people who care about their fellow man and their communities just like the rest of us, and if they really don’t it’ll become evident soon enough.

Most importantly, this keeps us from consistently getting “false positives” when we analyze ideas more deeply. We could discover that what we thought was “hate” was actually just a difference of opinion, or a set of life experiences we couldn’t possibly relate to and our dismissal of the “wrong thinkers” might have been an element of our own bigotry.

Jonah Goldberg has an article on the current “wrongthink” crusade, in which he mentions how common it is for folks to apply different standards for our fellow citizens than we do for those around the world:

Many of the same people who have contempt for the 1920 housewife will comment about a 2020 housewife in, say, Gaza, “Who are you to judge them? It’s their culture!”

So we do have to be careful with labeling of others’ wayward thoughts as obvious bigotry, and allow ourselves to slip into GK Chesterton’s meaning of the term:

“Bigotry can be roughly defined as the anger of men with no opinions.”

So, as the Irish poet is saying, if we have the right to love, we have the right to hate, especially until we know for certain that it is, indeed, hate. Regardless, we all know the only thing that overcomes hate. And it’s not more of the same.