The Weapon Against Hate: Compassion

Today’s topic: Hate.

Oh, we have endless types of hate in this world, but I feel like telling a story today. Here it goes.

I went with a comrade and good friend to a bullying presentation last night at a local bookstore. (“You went to a bullying presentation?!” “Anti-bullying, sorry!”) There were a series of events this week regarding bullying prevention throughout Traverse City, culminating in an anti-bullying conference held today. This particular presentation I attended was led by a woman who works for the Anti-Defamation League, which I was a little ashamed to have never heard of until last night. The primary program she was there to represent was No Place for Hate.

Now, having gone to school ever, I am always wary of a program that proclaims to be the fix to all bullying problems that exist in schools. If I had a dollar for every assembly I sat through in my elementary, middle school, and high school years with inspirational stories and messages that ended with “bullying is bad,” I would actually be able to afford my terrible coffee addiction. But I really liked hearing this presenter speak about this program, primarily because it seeks to address the roots of the bullying behaviors, rather than just the behaviors. One of the things I enjoyed tremendously was in a resource guide she handed out. In the guide, there was a graphic included titled the Pyramid of Hate.

Image

I love this. Love love love this. Most people either don’t notice that they are participating in acts at the bottom of the pyramid, or don’t think it’s a big deal. But that type of attitude becomes the basis of further hatred, and more obvious acts of hatred, with the peak of hatred being genocide. And truth be told, we’ve seen this play out too many times in the past century alone. The Holocaust. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The Hutus killing off the Tutsis in Rwanda. You think we’re in an age free from hate? It’s out there, and it’s slowly and insidiously creeping into a new place, a new society, and one day, somebody is going to take that hate and make something truly horrible happen with it. (If you haven’t watched the German filmĀ The Wave, you should check it out. It has a very interesting perspective.)

Okay, back to the bullying (“anti-bullying!” “I’m sorry!”) workshop. There were ten people attending the presentation, including myself. The last person arrived somewhere in the middle of the lecture. At the very end, the presenter was taking questions and this late-arrival, a very soft-spoken man, asked some sort of roundabout question along the lines of “The CDC says that being a homosexual is a health risk. How could a friend comfortably talk about her concerns without being accused of bullying?” For a few minutes, the lecturer tried to divert the question, and then he asked again, more directly. Two seats down, my comrade’s friend said, “I knew he looked familiar! I see him on the street all the time, preaching about the homosexual agenda, and the dangers of homosexuality.”

Great. I hate those people.

So, the entire table of people stiffened up and looked very uncomfortable. The presenter did a beautiful job of deflecting his questions and handled herself with great composure. I clenched my fist, and my comrade was ready to hold my hand so I didn’t stand up and throttle the man for how ridiculously misguided he was. My friend and I made a point to say that we work at an arts school where homosexuality is not only tolerated, but accepted! We’ve had openly gay class presidents, transgender class presidents, boys feel like they can holds hands with boys, girls feel like they can hold hands with girls. Rock on!

He wasn’t having any of it. We all stood up and left.

I hate that these people exist. This is a man who feels like including sexual orientation on an anti-discrimination policy is a part of the “homosexual agenda.” It literally sickens me to think about the fact that there are people in this world who think that bullying kids because of their sexual orientation, or often perceived sexual orientation is completely okay.

But here’s another thing that makes it even worse: I speak so highly of the acceptance on my school’s campus, but just a few days ago, one of my colleagues received a nasty, nasty hate letter. Why? Because he’s African-American.

I wanted to scream when I found out. There are thousands upon thousands of people who fought FIFTY YEARS AGO to destroy that hate. We are living in the year 2013. I just can’t believe this. It was a big fat reality check for me. I’ve always loved it here because of the acceptance. As a wise woman once said, “You go to arts school. You learn tolerance, or you have no friends.” (Thanks, Mrs. Burkett!) We have people from so many countries, from so many backgrounds, from so many places and experiences, and that’s one of the things that makes this place and this job so beautiful. And yet this one person, with two letters full of hate, has filled me with so much sadness and rage and has left me feeling disillusioned.

This is the important lesson part, so pay attention: Hate breeds hate. I want to hate this person, but I can’t. I want to hate the TC Family guy (www.tcfamily.org – having fun reading it and not vomiting out of disgust), too, but I can’t.

Instead of focusing on the hate of the TC Family guy, I should be focusing on my friend that was there to hold my hand and the eight other people that stood up and left because they weren’t going to waste their time and give this man an opportunity to spew his rhetoric of hate. Instead of focusing on the hate of the mysterious writer of the hate letters, I should be focusing on the 25 members of our staff rising up to give our friend the love and support he needs right now. Even if there is hate in this world, there is so much love out there to combat it.

I want to be on the compassionate side of history. I want to feel compassion for those that hate, even though it’s hard as hell sometimes. I hope that they will never experience the pain of discrimination, the pain of sharp words, the pain of suicide of a loved one. I hope that one day, they will understand that just because you were born into a family or church or culture that hates, it doesn’t mean that they have to continue that legacy. I hope that one day, they will also find compassion.

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” – His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

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