“Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.” Senator Alan Simpson
What is the opposite of hate? Hmmm . . .
Let’s ponder that while we honour the 75thanniversary this month of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of Nazi Germany’s death camps in which 1.1 million people died, 90% of them Jewish.
Zigi Shipper was just 14 when he arrived there in the summer of 1944. Now 90, Shipper spends time sharing his experience, admitting to Melissa Bell in a recent CNN interview that he often asks people, “Tell me something, have we learned? And everybody says, ‘No.’”
Genocides continue, as in Myanmar where government atrocities against Muslim Rohingyas have killed more than 10,000 since 2016. Anti-Semitism continues. In 2018, according to Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitic attacks rose by 13% worldwide. An October 2019 piece in The Hill reports that in the US, the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization founded in 1913 by B’nai Brith “continues to see ‘record-high’ numbers of anti-Semitic incidents across the country”.
Hate is harsh. Hate hurts, kills. But . . .
Hate, sadly, also really fires people up. Hate motivates. Case in point: Roger Stone, decades-long friend of Donald Trump, indicted on seven counts for what Wikipedia calls “perhaps the clearest picture yet of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia”, has a shocking set of rules he lives by, ones he calls Stone’s Rules. You can check out his unabashed, outrageous behaviour and connections to Trump in the Netflix doc “Get Me Roger Stone”, but this rule stood out for me: “Hate is a more powerful motivator than love.” O-M-G.
Frightening, yes? Stone’s been a political operative for years, he’s had Trump’s ear for years, and hate is what he’s peddling? “I revel in your hatred,” Stone says, “because if I weren’t effective, you wouldn’t hate me.” Wow.
Compare that to the response of House speaker Nancy Pelosi in December, after announcing the move forward toward impeachment by the Democrats. As she walked from the podium, a reporter asked, “Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?”
She turned on her heel, jabbed a finger at him and said, “I don’t hate anyone.” Referencing her Catholic upbringing, Pelosi said she prays for the president, admitting she feels he’s a:
- “coward” on gun control
- “cruel” on immigration
- “in denial” about climate change
Before she walked out, she said, “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
In her 2018 article “What is the opposite of hate?” Jacki Zehner expresses her feelings about hate this way: “This may sound like the ultimate contradiction, but I hate the word hate. I hate the way it sounds. I hate the way it feels. And I especially hate the fact that I can’t seem to avoid it these days. Politically and socially this word has seeped into our collective consciousness at an alarming rate, and while a lot of people have spent countless hours debating how we got to this point, I’m personally far more interested in how we move forward from here.”
I’ll admit to having used the word hate. Through a continuous pursuit of learning? I appreciate the power of words and work diligently to remove it from my vocabulary.
So, how do we move forward? Zehner, in her article, interviewed Sally Kohn, author of The Opposite of Hate and here is how Kohn feels we should respond to divisiveness, the “H” word:
“It’s not love. Not for my purposes, anyway. You don’t have to love someone to not hate them. But you do have to understand how we’re all fundamentally connected as human beings, how in spite of our differences and disagreements – which, by the way, I think are incredibly important and even worth celebrating – we’re still more alike than not and have more in common than not. And we all want a world that is less divided and less cruel. And the way we get there is recognizing how we’re connected, and studies show when we connect with people outside our own bubbles, the people we think of as ‘other’ we hate them less. The opposite of hate is connection.”
Connection. Ah. And real life connecting, not social media connecting. Let’s connect!
Getting back to CNN interviewer Melissa Bell on the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, she notes that survivors continue to dwindle as they reach the end of their lives and asks, “Can collective memory last longer than a lifetime?”
Let’s hope so. Zigi Shipper, the Holocaust survivor she interviewed, cautions us: “I say, whatever you do, don’t hate. Hate is the worst thing you can do. Never mind what nationality they are, what religion. To me, everybody is the same: we are just human beings.”
Website picture: my granddaughters connecting a few years back.