Sunday, October 25, 2009

Do You Hate?


"Hate is a strong word," parents often tell their children.  "You can say you dislike something."

The implication:  the word hate should be avoided. 

That's fine, but what about the sentiment?  Are we in denial that the sentiment exists?  Is it too much to ask for people to avoid the sentiment too?

Recently my daughter got into a discussion with some of the neighborhood kids in which she found herself in the minority. The other kids were saying that it was wrong to be gay, and my daughter was trying to assert, "No, it's not!" As the other kids looked more and more askance at her and got more vehement about decrying homosexuality, my daughter finally suggested they agree to disagree.  She didn't back down from her position, but she saw no use in further escalating a discussion that was becoming increasingly non-rational.

A couple of nights ago she attended her first middle school dance.  It went off without a hitch, much to my relief.  But something did happen to one of her friends before the dance.  A friend who happened to be one of the neighborhood kids in the discussion about homosexuality.  A boy came up to this friend at school and said to her, "No one's going to ask you to dance tonight because you're [insert name of religion here]."  The girl walked home to school in tears with my daughter.  My daughter tried to be supportive, telling her the guy was just a stupid, ignorant jerk whose opinion didn't matter.

But his actions did.

I didn't hear about all this till later.  When I did, I was livid, upset at the boy who would say such an awful thing, and at whatever elements in his life would signal to him or model for him that such thoughts and actions were acceptable.  While the girls were at the dance I knocked on our neighbor's door to see if my daughter's friend had told her mother about the incident.  I mean, if this were your kid, you'd want to know, right?  My daughter's friend hadn't said anything, and her mom was appreciative that I had come to speak to her about it. 

 "Of course," I said to her. "It's a hate crime and I totally abhor it.  Well, maybe not a CRIME in the legal sense, but it's hate speech. The kids should know we consider it very wrong, and a big deal." 

Hate speech. Toward a seventh grader.  A hate act.  Which leads to hate crimes or other hate acts. And worst of all, hate mentality.  And if it's starting this early, what does that say about how far (or not) this nation and world have come?  

I came to the conclusion long ago that disdain is the root of all evil.  Disdain, arrogance, and indifference to the worth of others.  We haven't come far enough to grow out of the propensity for scorn.

Do I hate? 

Yes.

I hate the disdain of members of one religion for those of others.
I hate the disdain of believers for nonbelievers.
I hate the disdain of nonbelievers for believers.
I hate the disdain of men for women.
I hate the disdain of women for men.
I hate the disdain of white people for black people.
I hate the disdain of black people for white people.
I hate the disdain straight people have for gay people.

I do hate.

I hate disdain.

Why can't people just live and let live?  Is that so hard?  Really, is it?

***

A Hindu proverb passed along by Retta Blaney:  "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. True nobility is in being superior to your previous self."

9 comments:

Old MD Girl said...

Middle school kids can be truly horrible to one another.

However I do have a question: Is it so much worse for a child to tell someone that nobody will dance with be because she's a member of a certain religion than because she is ugly?

They seem the same to me, only it isn't a "hate crime" to call someone ugly.

Elaine Fine said...

I don't know if I would call the Junior High School type of prejudice a hate crime. I would call it typical Junior High School behavior, and that insensitive kid should be taken to task for being narrow-minded and mean. Perhaps he would listen, and perhaps he would not, but we do know that he would be released back into the world. We could hope that the behavior wouldn't be repeated again, but until the kid grows up, it probably will.

Perhaps one problem that we have as a society is that people who are no longer in Junior High School behave like Junior High School kids. Our culture is one that puts too much of a value on youth and not enough of a value on experience and maturity. Older people feel that they need to appear (and often act) like younger people.

Junior High School is a zoo. And, from what I hear from my high school students, the zoo-like behavior has now taken over many high schools.

I suppose I should recommend the movie Welcome to the Dollhouse, but PLEASE don't watch it with your kids. We don't want our kids to see it until their kids are in Junior High School--or perhaps are out of school completely.

Being the parent of a Junior High School girl is no picnic. Even the girls who seem to be sailing along just fine are in agony. Being there as a parent is a serious challenge, and those of us who have sailed the rough waters of our kids actually growing beyond Junior High School have a great deal to celebrate.

But, oddly, it is between the ages of 13 and 15 that girls get a glimpse of who they are as individuals. Some fight it like crazy and try to "fit in." Some withdraw completely. And some wrestle with being drawn from one extreme to the other. And this all happens while their bodies are changing, their hormones are raging, and everything is happening in plain sight of the people they thought they knew their whole lives.

I imagine that a lot of kids want to shield their parents from the Hell that they are going through at school. You should feel very fortunate to have a daughter who talks to you. I know that you will try your best to make sure she keeps talking to you.

T. said...

I did say in the post that I retracted my calling the act a crime, because I know that TECHNICALLY it was not.

That said -

OMDG - It is in my book. It is very much a hate act - let's avoid the loaded term "hate crime" in honor of the bass-ackwards legal system that still fails to recognixe many examples of it as hate crimes - to say someone deserves to be rejected because of their appearance. Any speech or action that puts others down because of the way they are - by faith, by looks, by ability, by disability, by skin color, or whatever - is and always will be in my mind a hate act.

Elaine - I think if kids aren't taught that their "junior high school type of prejudice" is an example of a hate speech or hate action - again, let's avoid the whole "hate crime" phrase - then they'll chalk it up to kids being mean to each other, say "oh well," and call it a day.

I don't accept the idea that hate acts should be considered "normal" in any age group even if they are, in fact, common or to be expected. Plenty of junior high kids don't behave this way. Are they then "abnormal?" No. Prejudice is prejudice and hate is hate at any age, and totally unacceptable at every age, even if "everyone else is doing it." Kids should be given that message, lest they get the idea (which I think some of them already have) that it's ok to be hurtful, ignorant, low-life bigots.

The Girl said...

Thank-you for that post. I think you should be very proud of your daughter - I'm sure you already are, but I just felt like I should say it.
Doing the right thing is often not the same as doing the easy thing, and it is especially hard to do when you have to think for yourself and make your own decisions at the time. To do that as a child is remarkable.

JGregg said...

wow. very applicable. i have a junior higher, and he is in a Christian, private school (i guess that's a tautology). we discuss many, many topics amongst himself, myself, and his little brother who is 9 years-old. and, indeed, hate is one of those topics.

they (on their own) have decided that it is okay to hate the devil and to hate evil. that's about as far as they've gotten, and i think that's pretty good for two young believers to agree upon in terms of their inchoate theological remonstrances.

however, they -- of course as all of our young brood do in this day and age -- asked dear old dad what, or more specific, who i hate. i was tempted to say their step-dad, but i don't hate him. in fact, i pray for him (although this took me quite a long time). i tell them that i hate when i fall short of God's best for me.

i tell them that i hate when liberals belittle America's religious heritage, and when believers besmirch the name of our faith b/c of their cultural preferences and resulting misreading of scripture.

i tell them that i hate injustice, and that i hope they can grow in their lives as young men into the types of faithful men who will be able to teach others also about their faith, true faith of loving their fellow man as themselves, and God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

and i hate when i get all preachy and lofty and forget my place.

Jg.

Anali said...

It's horrible that kids, people in general treat each other this way. But unfortunately, that's really not that young for it to be happening.

When I was in kindegarden, granted this was in the 70's, but it was in Brookline, not even in Boston, but I remember a little boy in my class spitting on me and calling me the N word.

Little kids act out what they learn at home and/or what they see around them. Maybe his parents weren't that hateful to teach him that. Maybe he saw the news on tv and that's what was happening in the Boston area at the time. I'll never know why he did it, but I'll never forget what he did.

I suspect that's what's happening with your daughter and her classmates.

T. said...

Exactly why I think we can't just chalk it up to mean kid syndrome. There are parents out there in our supposedly educated community teaching or modeling GARBAGE to their children. Garbage. Unless those kids get the message from other sources that they're being transformed into trash by their own mentality and behavior, they'll just keep at it.

T. said...

JG - You're way ahead of me. There is a person who comes to my mind anyone someone asks a question like, "Is there anyone you just can't stand?" or mentiones the word "snide" or talks about disdain / contempt / arrogance. I have not yet been able to bring myself to pray for that person. I haven't tried all that hard, either. I hate my own flaws.

I don't find you preachy at all. And I love what you contribute to these discussions. Thanks for being here!

K. said...

Wow, that's wonderful that you told your neighbor. I would DEFININTELY want to know that. Kids sometimes don't know how to have that conversation with their parents and you gave her a chance to start the discussion.

That sucks...it makes me afraid for my kids...:(