Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11th and Being Surprised By Hate

Since today is September 11th, I thought I'd write about something that has been really on my mind lately, and that is hate. It seems like hate is lurking in places I'd never expect, cropping up in surprising ways everywhere, including in me, despite my best intentions.

As a Christian, it is important to me to love my enemies. I think of an enemy not as someone I hate, but as someone who wants ill for me, who wants to see me fail, who rejoices at my misfortune; I do have enemies and I think we all do. So I am learning how to do that--to love them. I'm working on it.

It is also important to me to be kind always. I love the friends I have here online and the blogs I read, which have taught me a great deal about kindness. They continue to do so. Occasionally though I'll see hate crop up online, oftentimes from someone who is normally very loving. It always bothers me, makes me sad, and sometimes I speak up, hopefully in a sensitive and gentle way. I appreciate the times people have spoken up to me and have let me know when I've been less than loving.

So this week the preacher who wanted to burn the Korans spoke up and revealed the hate in his heart. Apparently his parishioners share his views as well. If my pastor wanted to do anything like that I would leave the church (running) and pray for his soul. The parishioners who remain are supportive of his views, at least at some level. It astounded me that someone could feel this way and not feel ashamed, but self-righteous. I've been trying to process it since I heard about it. I still am.

Then I found out that someone I know agrees with the preacher. This person is also a Christian. How does such hate live in a human heart? This person believed that the preacher was acting in an appropriate way because it was probably in response to the controversy about the mosque in NYC--which they thought made sense and was good. I was revolted and had a hard time finding compassion--it was a hunt--and I still do not understand.

A couple of weeks ago I was in my favorite coffee shop. Relaxing and reading and writing, getting a lot done. A new person arrived, an olive-skinned man who sat down in the center of the shop and began rapidly talking on a cell phone in an unfamiliar gutteral language. He was very loud and very, very angry. His discussion went on and on and his agitation became more pronounced. The culture of the coffee shop is that you leave when you make a call or else talk softly and briefly. Many people there are writing and working. This man ignored everyone and continued interminably.

He could have been a husband in a fight with his wife. He could have been an attorney outraged at an injustice venting uncontrollably in a coffee shop. However, in my mind he was a Muslim terrorist planning his next hit; I felt fear and hatred towards him. It all added up. I couldn't get the idea out of my head. Even though I knew it was just an idea, just fear, just hate--and nothing more. He kept getting louder and louder and no one stopped him. Thirty minutes went by. What man talks that fast for that long? When would he stop? Everyone at the coffee shop heard him, including the manager and workers, but no one said a word. I didn't either...because I didn't want to be seen as a racist.

Now had he been Caucasian, I definitely would have said something. I would have expected him to know the coffee shop's culture and to comply. As it was, I endured the fear and pain that his conversation triggered in me...and then finally he left. At last.

Feeling calmer, I thought about it, knowing that my imaginations were based totally upon fear and had no basis in reality. I know the difference between thoughts, projections, and what is actually going on. I thought about how many people don't know the difference between their fears and reality--not a clue. They don't know how to tell if something is true or is merely a projection based upon their past experiences. I felt glad that I knew what was happening even as it happened--sorry for the fear and judgment but happy to know that these were only fear-based thoughts indicating that I had some personal work to do!

It's still hate, but there is something that I can do about it. And identifying it as such protects others because I would never act upon it. I will work to rid myself of it.

For this preacher and his flock--they are trapped. Trapped in their thoughts and imaginings which are hateful and which seem so real to them. How can we get so off-base and not even know?

Today I pray for those people who hate--which is all of us--but pray that we will be drawn ever more to love each day for everyone, especially those who are different from us. I pray for me. And you. And that preacher.

~Photo by LoveHubbie Mark


Anonymous said...

Olivia, I think we all have some hate, but it hides from us in our blind spot. I was also shocked and saddened by what that preacher was planning to do, but I know that I have areas where I am just as intolerant. Some days I feel hate for smokers who throw their butts on the ground in a beautiful park. Or toward the CEO of a company whose errors result in the loss of many animals and habitat, and who does not seem appropriately contrite afterward. You are right. The important thing is for us to search our hearts, find these areas of prejudice in us so we can be aware of our knee-jerk and pre-programmed reactions.

As for the man in the coffee shop, I'm starting to think this is a cultural difference. I have witnessed some behaviour lately indicating to me that speaking loudly in public is normal in some parts of the Arab world. I can tell from other behaviours coming from the same individuals (where I work) that they are sweet, peaceful people who have no idea that they are sticking out like a sore thumb the way they talk loudly and over others. Once it is pointed out to them that it's not done that way here, they quiet each other down very quickly.

Olivia said...

Oh, Kelly, there is so much in your comment. I wonder what is hiding in my blind spot? I'm glad I noticed how I felt about the coffee shop man before I acted upon it.

It's good to know that this behavior may be cultural. Unless someone told you, how would you know? This helps me to have compassion.

You say it so well, "The important thing is for us to search our hearts, find these areas of prejudice in us so we can be aware of our knee-jerk and pre-programmed reactions." This is so important. The less blind we are, the better off we will be.

Thank you for commenting, welcome home, and congratulations again on your engagement, Love, O

patti said...

Intolerance is one of those things that sneaks up on us sometimes. You at least saw yours coming Olivia.

I am trying to understand and show compassion towards the preacher but I just don't get why he thinks hatred is the answer to our differences, considering his vocation.

Olivia said...

Patti, I don't know either. I can't think of any reason. I can't see how it makes anything better.

Someone I spoke to says that it makes people feel less angry when they discharge their hatred and it feels like a relief or release--so this could be it. I suppose that this sort of thing could almost be addictive--endorphins or something. I don't know.

I find myself wondering if such people don't know any other way to feel good because they are cut off from feeling love for others. I know I'm generalizing and just speculating...

Thank you for commenting, Patti. Peace, love, and rest to you today, O

iHanna said...

In the buddhist tradition you can't "love your enemies" because there are no enemies. They are just people, all they want is to be happy too. If you think about it like that love becomes so much easier... I think you are brave to write about such things, to ponder and see the fear in yourself. Way to go girl!

Rick Hamrick said...

I find hate to be fear expressed as resistance: pushing against what is feared.

Fear expresses, also, when we run away.

The only way to address fear is to step toward it and be Love.

Because fear is an irrational, ignorant response to something we are not familiar with, when we approach it calmly and lovingly, it dissipates.

When we address our fear as a natural response which is moved through easily--loved back to sleep, you might say--the hatred which is an outward appearance of the fear is also released.

I like iHanna's perspective, and I believe it, too: no one lives for their hatred. Everyone, at their core, wants to be happy and safe. If they become convinced that marching in the streets and expressing hatred will make them happier or more safe, they will do it.

One day, we will all realize that the only path to comfort and happiness is Love. I can know the truth of it, and I can tell anyone who will listen that it is my truth.

Love is like water in that it will always win any contest over time. Not through force or power, but by flowing endlessly.

We may or may not see this day I mention, but we can walk toward it consciously and with joy.

Olivia said...

Thanks, iHanna. I was trying to dig a little deep for this one. In theory, I like the idea of no enemies, and I do believe that everyone is trying to find happiness the best way they know.

At the same time, if someone has a consistent pattern of finding their happiness when I have something unfortunate happen to me, I find the idea of enemy useful...but blessing them instead of seeing animosity...and extending compassion to them...

Thank you for your comment, welcome to happyluau, and please return. I love comments that make me think :) Blessings and love, Olivia

Olivia said...

Rick, Your comment is very rich with many positive ideas. I do like the idea of seeing not just happiness as a goal, but safety--because it is such a struggle to imagine pleasure in hatred, even as a release. Safety, on the other hand, is something that makes more sense to me, but with the person seeing a mixed up way of getting to their safety.

I think that this could be part of what is behind the religious intolerance (both of the Muslims and of the Christians). People somehow think that their own ideas or way of life would be safer if there was less diversity---or something like that. I treasure that in America we are free to believe anything we want to, no matter how unusual, foreign, difficult to understand, stupid (as judged by others), or silly (again, as judged by others).

I think what is missing is respect for those who are different. Others are free but they are not respected as they need to be to truly honor an individual human being. When we honor those who are different from us, I think we will have come a long way. I can honor someone and profoundly disagree with them, but express my disagreement with respect.

I appreciate your comments as well, Rick, because they ALWAYS make me think.

Love, O