If you listen to the mainstream media, if you read the headlines, if you follow social media, you can't help but think we have a problem with hate in this country. A white man hates black men so much that he walks into their church and shoots nine of them dead. A black man hates white men. A conservative despises a homosexual, who despises him right back. How did we get here? And how do we get out of here?
Our greatest trouble is that we are a world content to not do much of anything until the unthinkable happens and we realize we must do something. Then what we do is the kind of something that is nothing at all.
The public outcry against hate has brought us all kinds of potential "solutions." Maybe we make stricter gun laws. Maybe we take away the firepower of hate and then we avoid all these devastating scenes. But the gunman in the most recent atrocity didn't buy his own gun; his father bought it for him. And criminals, in general, don't care how many laws you make against them. If they desire a gun, they will find one.
And we must ask ourselves this, too: is hate the bullet? How do gun laws change hate?
Maybe, as is now taking great prominence in the media, we lower a flag. Maybe we pull down a symbol that some have used to define their hate. Maybe that's the answer. At least one large retail chain has decided not to sell any of these images any more, on anything. Maybe we just make it so you can't look around see hate. That's surely the answer, right? No. You don't answer hate by choosing simply not to look at it.
Or maybe we just keep talking. Maybe that's it. Maybe we keep the lines of communication open and talk our way out of this hate problem. Maybe if we could all just sit down around the table, we'd discover a way to live together. But living together doesn't necessarily solve hate, either.
People like to say that we still have a racism problem in this country, that we have a homophobia problem here. Maybe we do. But I think they'll always be able to say this. Because if you listen to people talk about this problem - big name people, smart people, engaged people - they will tell you that as long as one white man hates a black man, as long as one black man hates a white man, as long as one conservative hates a gay, as long as one gay hates a conservative, we have a problem. The goal for these social movements we're seeing now is 100% buy-in - that, to a man, everyone will respect everyone. (And I'm being generous here. Many, many persons in these movements see this buy-in as only going one direction, and I recognize that.)
But 100% of people don't agree on anything. Pull enough people together, and you'll find someone who will have some scientific rhetoric about why the sky isn't blue. Put a group of people in a walk-in freezer and someone will be comfortable, while the others are freezing. Did you know there are people in this world who don't like puppies? Or..bacon?
If the answer to hate is 100% buy-in, we're fighting a battle we're bound to lose.
Thankfully, regardless of what you hear in the news, the answer to hate is not buy-in.
The answer to hate is love.
Ask any young child about love and hate. It's the most basic of understandings, really. Ask them what is the answer to wrong, and they will say, "Right." Ask them about responding to bad, and they will say, "Good." Ask them what force counteracts hate, and they will say, "Love."
We're a people content to sit around and not do much of anything until something happens and we discover that we must do something. Then, so often, we go out and do something, and that something is not much of anything either because it's the wrong thing.
More gun control laws are not going to help us right now. Pulling a flag off a statehouse lawn and off the store shelves is not going to help us right now. Having more conversations about living together is not going to help us right now. For those of you who understand this reference, renegotiating the roommate agreement is not going to help us right now.
If we have a problem with hate in this country, if we really have a problem with hate in this country, it's because we have a problem with love in this country. If you're looking around and thinking we have to do something, love is something.
Hate doesn't have to be a battle we're bound to lose.
Go love somebody.