Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hatred is an evil that must be guarded against

My parents were very clear; they specifically taught us kids NOT to hate. They imparted to us that ALL people are potentially good, and that religion and race are NOT characteristics with which we should judge anyone by. Basically, they taught my siblings and me this life lesson with this worn-out adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

In fact, my mom discouraged the very CONCEPT of hatred, no matter how trivial the context. You know how kids, and even adults, say things in a fit of anger? Sometimes we’d make bitter hyperbolic declarations after some minor schoolyard conflict like, “I HATE Johnny! I wish he were dead!” My mom, and even my dad, would sternly interject, “No you don’t. You don’t HATE anyone.” When they pointed this out, it always made me feel foolish and a little remorseful, like I had been caught doing something vile.

Nevertheless, the human condition being what it is, I had to learn in time for adulthood that hatred between people does in fact exist and for all sorts of absurd reasons. On top of that, I was going to have to deal with it. By the time I was drinking age I learned that essentially there are three broad types of human hatreds based on ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Hatred for religious practitioners, especially for Jews, has always been difficult for me to comprehend; when I’ve come across it, I’ve just never gotten it. Some consider the Jews to be a race, so I suppose you could say that one is based on a combination of race AND religion, the old double whammy of hate.

Speaking of which, a few weeks ago I was having what I thought to be a perfectly reasonable conversation with a middle-aged guy whom I thought was levelheaded, just a run-of-the-mill guy. I forget the exact topic, but out of nowhere he declared that all our problems stemmed from the many Jews in charge in our government and in our economy. I was stunned to the point of amusement so I reacted with humor.

“Hey, Mel! Mel Gibson! I hadn’t realized that you were here in the Phils!”

He laughed me off and continued to strongly and seriously defend his assertion that it was the Jews screwing everything up, not only in the USA, but also in Europe and especially in the Middle East. It was surreal. This average American guy votes democrat, is a union man, and by definition is left leaning—by any standard a moderate-liberal. I wouldn’t have thought him to be a crazy Jew hater from his apparent progressive stance on most other subjects. You just never know what people really think. Perhaps its better NOT to know!

As far as hatred between the races, for the first few years of my life such a thing never occurred to me, at least not until I was about 8 years old. That’s when I was rudely introduced to it when the fire hose of racial vitriol was turned on me full force in a very painful and personal way. Strangely enough, this occurred when an angry black mom physically accosted me thinking that I was hurting her boy. Actually, he had just fallen from the top of a tall slide and I was trying to help him. In a rage she violently yanked me straight from my haunches onto my back. Out of the 5 or 6 other kids gathered around her prostrate and winded boy, she had singled me out, probably because of my blonde hair. She grabbed me by it, nearly snapping my neck, screaming “white trash,” a term I had never heard before. That was my introduction to racial hatred and it was traumatic to say the least.

What I learned from that incident, and many more to follow, was that because of my “whiteness” I had to be very wary around black people. Before that, they were no different to me than Asians, Latins and other Whites. Growing up a military brat, I was around all sorts of races, and truthfully, I never noticed the variations. As long as the differences aren’t pointed out to them, young children don’t see race; they just see people.

In effect, I suppose I paid in part for all the abuses suffered by generations of American blacks at the hands of whites. If you don’t want to call it reverse racism then call it racial backlash. That lesson continued and was reinforced as I got older, when I learned that there were places that I, as a white person, could not safely go because of the odium felt by blacks living there. During our many drives across the States, as we moved from one base to the next, or just traveling home on leave, we would see a Tastee Freeze or a Dairy Queen and plead with our parents to stop. Sometimes my dad reluctantly told us that it was a black neighborhood and they probably wouldn’t welcome us there, so we pushed on.

That’s when I began to understand that America wasn’t so free after all. How free can a country be if there are places people cannot go without fear just because they are black, or white, or Jewish, or a homosexual? (Or in these times, because they don’t belong to the correct gang?) Blacks say there is no such thing as racism by blacks, but I’m here to tell you that that is rubbish. Hatred is an equal opportunity endeavor, practiced by all sorts of people against all sorts of other people.

The first time I heard someone refer to black people, or negroes, as we were instructed to call them back in the 60s, as niggers, was when my dad got stationed in Texas. I was 11 years old. Shockingly, one of my new neighborhood playmates casually referred to one of our schoolmates as a nigger. My head snapped over in the direction of his mom, who was easily within earshot. I became even more shocked that she didn’t jump straight down his throat. My mom would have thrashed me and washed my mouth out with soap. After that, I avoided his house. I didn’t feel comfortable there anymore after having been so conditioned in my own home that saying such things was horrible and forbidden.

As far as hating homosexuals, I never even knew gay people existed until late in my high school years, and even then it was on a purely theoretical basis. I had heard the word “faggot” of course, but to me it just meant someone that was a wimp or girly. To us kids using that word had nothing to do with sex between members of the same sex—such a thing just seemed outlandishly unlikely. Evidently, that was during a time long before people would dare to “come out of the closet.” I suppose this new age of sexual openness is better for today’s gay people, but it sure made it easier for the likes of me back then when it was “out of sight and out of mind.”

So as you can see, the guidelines of my upbringing didn’t cover all the “hatred possibilities” in the world, such as homophobia and anti-Semitism; but considering the times that my parents grew up in I suppose that was understandable.

For instance, my mom and dad never addressed "sexual orientation” with me, or, in other words, homosexuality. Thinking back, I suppose that only makes sense since we never discussed heterosexuality all that much either. From that, it’s safe to say that once I reached young adulthood I was quite na├»ve to the sexual ways of the world, and when at the tender age of 18 I ended up in the Bay Area, where “gayness” was everywhere and too obvious to ignore, I eventually also made it a point to include homosexuality in with the religion and race “book covers” of not to judge others by.

Concerning my decision not to be a homophobe, I think the very reason I even had to think about such a thing was because so many of my fellow marines were homophobes. Some of them hated gays because they had been “hit on” in town by homosexuals and didn’t like it one bit. Others had been to San Francisco and had become sickened by the overt acts between gay men in public. That very thing had happened to me on several occasions, and though I had felt great revulsion, I had just decided to ignore and avoid them.

At least with homophobia I can dimly understand why some men, perhaps insecure in their own sexuality, would feel threatened by gay men. For some reason just the presence of homosexual males causes a severe combination of anger and aversion in some heterosexual males. As I said, I also felt the aversion thing the first time I saw two men being openly romantic, but I certainly never felt anger and hatred toward them, just queasy disgust. The anger I felt was that I knew they were purposely flaunting it to make me feel uncomfortable. It was just plain rude and inexcusable.

Once, I was with a group of three other marines walking across the huge grassy mall just south of the Washington Monument doing some sightseeing in Washington D.C. I was just 20 years old at the time. Then, the oldest of us, a staff sergeant, spotted two “obviously” gay fellows walking “amorously” together hand-in-hand. The sergeant began making vulgar comments to the two men and the other two marines followed suit.

I couldn’t believe grown men could say and do what my three marine companions said and did that day to those two gay guys. I grimly lagged behind them while they continued to harass the pair. Just like schoolyard bullies, the cruel marines stepped on the frightened men’s heels and continued their foul comments and coarse interrogations. Their terrified “quarry” didn’t respond; they just kept walking as fast as they could in an effort to get away from their tormentors. I felt mortified and upset with myself that I was with these nasty characters and that I was doing nothing to stop them. After that, I told myself “never again.”

Overall, I suppose you could say that as a youngster I led a very sheltered existence when it came to NOT being exposed to the hatred of my fellow human beings, and I’m saying here and now that that was probably a good thing. For soon enough, everyone is exposed to the horrors of hatred.

No one is born hating anyone else—people are taught or learn to do it. The problem is that once hatred is instilled its almost impossible to root out. That is especially true when it is hate based in religion. A testament to that is the current hatred against the West being instilled into countless Muslim hearts in the thousands of hate-factories across the Muslim world called madrassas. Unfortunately, we can’t simply “love the hate” out of the graduates of these hate-mongering institutions. The result is the present day death struggle going on between them and “us.”

My own struggle is internal, with trying not to hate these hate-filled people right back, as well as trying to keep in mind that not all Muslims are a part of this mindless hate fest, at least I hope they aren’t. My problem with the Islamic world is that it doesn’t seem like an overwhelming number of them speak out against the haters amongst them.

Hating is easy. It takes little intelligence to do it and it’s the easiest emotion to manipulate by leaders of hate. Another blogger, Katana, wrote a post wherein she urges Americans to read why the Muslim world hates us. In other words, we are hated because of the policies and actions of our government and business people—our supposedly mindless support of Israel and our casual disregard for Islamic sensibilities. Basically, with all respect to Katana, it’s all a load of crap.

Why crap? Well, the average Muslim man on the street only knows to hate who he is TOLD to hate. Most have never seen an American, except perhaps on TV, and tiny Israel is just a modern bogeyman as well. In reality, it’s all about power. The Imam’s and even the secular tyrants running the show throughout much of the Ummah use “the threat” of the West’s so-called decadence as a rallying cry, and even more importantly, as a diversion.

Historically, its an old story--the desperate generals of Argentina did it when they invaded The Falklands in 1982. The same thing is happening now when those in the Muslim world call us the Great Satan. They do it to focus “the people’s enmity" outside and away from their own internal dysfunction and disarray, not to mention there is a very real movement among traditional Muslims to restore the mostly mythical “Caliphate,” which once ruled under a succession of forms under Sharia (Islamic) Law.

Western history, notably Europe’s, had similar eras where its leaders used religion, and later nationalism, to rally its people. In some ways we still do it, although not so much as public policy. Now, private purveyors of fear and hatred are responsible. For instance, how many hate or “warning” blogs exist to rally Americans to the dangers of Islam? Personally, I believe in many of these dangers, but not to the point that I see a terrorist behind every Arabic and Pakistani face, but many do.

Hatred is an evil that must be guarded against at all times. It destroys the soul of the person contaminated with it. One of the best books ever written about this is “With the Old Breed” by E. B. Sledge. In it, he describes how many young American marines became consumed with hatred for their Japanese enemy. He also speaks to how he felt himself succumbing to this rage and had to fortify himself against it or lose his humanity. It’s one of the most poignant tomes against the dangers of hatred ever, and I say this after having first read it many years ago.

This has turned into a rambling rampage about and against hate. When I started it I thought I would just write about that average Joe I met who unexpectedly exposed to me his senseless hatred of Jews. Sometimes, my written words take on a life of their own and that’s what happened here…

So, all you people out there, stop hating each other! And , guard against it when you feel a spate of it coming on; otherwise, it'll eat your soul from the inside out... on that note.... Hate OUT! Peace IN!
Peace out...


Anonymous said...

It's been a few minutes since I read this blog entry, Phil, and I find myself in a quandry here. I want to respond with a lot of emotion and detail, enough for an entire essay but at the same time I'm blocking out a lot of stuff. You've triggered a lot of memory and emotion here but I'm going to try to limit myself to a few snippets and maybe deal with an essay-length response later.

Item One: I grew up in a similar family/ethical environment, one in which folks really did try to be the best they can be according to Judeo/Christian principles..

Item Two: I grew up very naive about some sexual practices and orientations so when I encountered the visceral hatred toward them later I was really shocked, not shocked at the practices themselves but at the mindless hatred toward those who practice them, like your Marine buddies there in DC.

Item Three: I really do want to believe that all religions encourage the practice of peace and love and brotherhood. But in light of recent events I'm having a hard time doing this with Muslims who either openly practice hatred or pretend to be moderates by being silent about it.

Item Four: On a recent trip I found myself riding an elevator up to my floor of my hotel. I saw my companion looking at me with curiosity and he finally asked, “Are you Israeli?” I said “No, American but I consider myself a Zionist”. He said he he was Israeli and always kept an eye open for his co-nationals and thought I was one. He added that most Americans are pro-Zionist and he appreciated that. I felt a surge of pride in that, for one, that he might consider me personally an Israeli, and two, that he recognized that my nation is his nation's principal supporter.

There are many ways to respond to this blog entry, Phil. I really could go on and on but will limit myself, for now anyway, to this.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hiya Opass, welcome back. I'm touched that you felt so compelled to write commentary based on my own experiences with hate. By all means please post on it in Opass. I'm looking forward to it. I'll warn you now though; the hard part of writing about this topic is NOT meandering, which is kind of what I did.

Oh, and I see you have a new post yourself. I'm reading it now...

KA said...

America disregards a lot of things... not the least of with is the islamic culture. Stepping in to save the day when it's better not to meddle.

Do you even know what the word "madrasa" means?

While you're at it, how many "average muslim man" have you spoken to? While on that notion, do you really think the average muslim man is an idiot... they hate who they're told to? Sounds like a universal problem.

They have reasons, or at least believe that they have reasons which all basically stem to Israel. Their hatred of our actions in Israel isnt mindless either. Are we wrong for backing Israel? I dont know. Not my area. Do they have reason to be pissed? I'd definitely say so.

What I find completely disgusting is the disregard of the POV of our enemy which is no less valid than ours. The Average man still tells me that the Muslim world hates us because they "hate freedom" and I find that reprehensible. It's ok to say the other guy is wrong, but it's not ok to not at least attempt to see the other side... at the very least, we do have an enemy, they do have motives and methods and understanding them would help us win the war (which I'm still blindly hoping will happen within the next month... if I'm gonna dream, I might as well dream big, right?).

I can tell you, however, that not attempting to see the other side, as many Americans do, will just prolong this conflict. I read books and articles that tell me things that I don't know, even if i disagree. I think Americans should read what he writes because it will either confirm what they believe or they will alter their beliefs or it will cement what they already believe. That's what I ask of writers... as writers only stumble on the truth once in awhile.

Nick Ballesteros said...

There was a time when I lived in a neighborhood where kids roamed and played freely in the streets, and I was appalled when they shout curses like it was something commonly used! You can just imagine how it is in their house. Respect truly begins at home.

Is discrimination also a form of hatred? If so, I would like to add a fourth to your three hatred types: affluence. Middle-class and rich students bullying those who are trying to cope material-wise. It's also something I've seen a lot of.

The harsh realities of life. Sooner or later we have to face them too. Our upbringing is a major factor in how we subsequently react.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Katana, didn't even know you'd responded. Must have bypassed my email.

Sure I know what a madrassa is. Did you click on my hyperlink? Its a traditional-oriented Muslim school, Sunni to be specific. They have been in the news and discussed ad nauseum on all the news channels. What are you implying...that madrassas are a "good" thing? They are hotbeds of hate, no doubt about it.

The average Muslim man "on the street" I'm talking about is one of the many "screamers" you see on TV demonstrating against you and yours and burning us in effigy whenever they are told by some Imam at prayer call that Jihad should be in their hearts and that we are their enemy. Those "average Muslim men demonstrating their hatred on the street" are not in the least concerned about all those kidnapped Korean aide workers that might be about to be killed by their Taliban captors, two of which have already been executed. The average Muslim man I think you are talking about are the silent ones too cowed by the "average Muslim man on the street" to speak out against violent extremism. I've met plenty of these silent ones. To me, the silent frightened ones are as bad as the "average Muslim men in the street" that I was referring to.

And yes, those fools you see burning flags in the streets and calling for "death to America" or death to whomever, are indeed "idiots," and listen exclusively to their hate-filled Imams and fellow haters. The difference between those "idiots" and the average westerner is that we don't erupt into the streets in mindless moronic lemming-like thousands and demand "death to Islam" every time a 9/11 or 7/7 happens.

How much do you actually know about the history of the existence of modern Israel? Sounds like not much more than what you've read from the anti-Zionists and Palestinians. That entire area that is Israel and Palestine today was already heavily populated with Jews long before the so-called Palestinians began to flood into the area, mostly due to the economic prosperity brought by the enterprising Jews. "Palestine" was a sparsely populated desert right up until the end of the 19th century. And you are aware that the UN "created" Israel in 1947 right? The only reason the Arabs "put up with" that decision is that they were certain they would be immediately able to push the Jews right back into the Med. Sure enough, they had a war where all the Arabs tried to gang up on Israel and lo and behold the Jews kicked their ass instead. They tried again in '67 and once more in '71. The result was always the same. The Jews kicked butt.

And why wouldn't we support Israel? They are the only democracy in the Mideast and are legitimate under the UN charter. The Arabs have done nothing but try to destroy them since the UN brought them into existence.

If the Arabs truly gave a hoot about the Palestinians, which they don't, they could have easily created a Palestinian homeland on alternate territory. The Palestinians left their homes in Israeli territory at the start of the '48 war thinking their Arab "brothers" would soon send the Jews packing, but we know how that turned out.

When I was stationed in Liberia in '77/'78 with the Marines guarding the embassy; we made fast friends among the Lebanese community there. They were mostly Muslim with a few Christians thrown in. What I learned from that experience is that the Lebanese ROCK! They loved us and we returned the feeling. The one thing that all of them had in common was a great enmity for Palestinians. Every time they said the word Palestinian they ALWAYS prefaced it with "f##king." The Palestinians are some of the most unpopular people in all of the Middle East, and a lot of it has to do with their own making.

Your rationale for "seeing their side" began to die for me in '72, in Munich, weakened even more in '83 in Beirut, and completely ended on 9/11 when I watched "the average Palestinian on the Street" celebrating the death of 3000.

Hey, you didn't hear? Reid said the surge failed way back in April before it even started. He made his mind up way back then that it is politically expedient that we "lose" no matter how things go "over there." Looks like congress has already "legislated" the loss of Iraq to the extremists. Once that happens, once again, the "haters" win.

Sure I read rationale from all sides, and I, like you, don't buy the line that they hate our freedom and that's why they hate us. What I do know is that we DO have a clash of cultures on a monumental scale. Americans don't get a culture that doesn't allow women to show their female form; or in some places, not to go to school, or to drive, or to leave the house unescorted. We don't get a culture that allows honor killing, or beheadings for a whole host of misdeeds. They, on the other hand don't get our insistence on separation of church and state, or on having freedom of speech even if it means demeaning religion or our flag.

Katana, we are much more open and willing to listen to them and to their grievances than they are to listening to us. I lived twice in one of the MOST tolerant Muslim nations in the world, Turkey; and even so, all Christian churches there MUST hide behind high stone walls. Most Westerners are more than willing to live and let live. "Our side" isn't the side with extremists willing to blow up kids and babies to "make a point," at least not on purpose.

Somehow I think I've lived and been around and known a lot more Muslims than you have Katana. MOST of them are the sweetest people I've ever met, but those aren't the ones that want us dead; those aren't the people we are fighting.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Wat, you make a good point concerning "class" hatred. I was never exposed to it much in the States, because we tend to be more egalitarian.

We might have a little of it, where some kids have parents who can afford to buy them a car, but for the most part our schools are made up of populations more or less from the same economic class.

In the States, except for the filthy rich, if you meet a millionaire, you might not even know it. Middle class folks and the very rich might even drive similar cars. Flaunting wealth is not something most tend to do.

I have noticed over here though that your system does indeed discriminate against the "have nots." Hardly any of the truly poor get the opportunity to go to the "big-league colleges," where we have all sorts of means and ways for "underprivileged" students to attend almost any school they want to go to in the US.

Indeed, the most arrogant people I've ever seen are the rich folk right here in this country. They definitely don't empathize or feel any commonality whatsoever with their impoverished countrymen. Trying to get rich people here to help us to help the local needy is like pulling teeth. I just don't get it Wat.

Amadeo said...

I believe it is more than coincidental that after reading V. D. Hanson's moving review of With The Old Breed, I read your reference about this same book.

Growing up I was thrilled to no end reading old pockbetbooks from my father about the wars in the Pacific theatre - mostly in the small islands or atolls. Publications that looked like they were issued out by a department of the armed forces, since they also showed actual photos.

Another one that I kept for many years was Guadalcanal Diaries which had those pencil sketches liberally included in its pages.

And yes, hate, and that's why it is one of the deadly sins. Love gone berserk and projected outward.

Thus, the most lovable and most humane person can possibly exhibit it once pushed to the edge.