Hate is just a bodyguard for grief. When people lose the hate, they are forced to deal with the pain beneath.
Something that worries me a lot in the wake of the US election is the hatred I see being hurled back and forth between left and right. It worried me during our last Canadian federal election, when members of my family on either end of the political spectrum were demonizing each other because of their perceived stupidity and lack of values. It startled me, because we’re from the same family. I’ve known and cared about these people all my life, and I’m pretty sure our values are more alike than different. So why the name calling? Why the anger and blame?
Anger and blame exploded into hatred during the recent US election and the weeks since. I’m not talking just about a spike in hate crimes—although I’m deeply concerned about that. I’m talking about a divided country (my own as much as the USA) where each side sees the other as the deplorables. If we are ever going to bring forth the beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible, we have to stop acting out hate.
Charles Eisenstein writes:
We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?
It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new animating force. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature of misogynist and bigot to find the real person.
Even if the person you face IS a misogynist or bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil.
I think the pain beneath [hate] is fundamentally the same pain that animates misogyny and racism – hate in a different form. Please stop thinking you are better than these people! We are all victims of the same world-dominating machine, suffering different mutations of the same wound of separation. Something hurts in there. We live in a civilization that has robbed nearly all of us of deep community, intimate connection with nature, unconditional love, freedom to explore the kingdom of childhood, and so much more. The acute trauma endured by the incarcerated, the abused, the raped, the trafficked, the starved, the murdered, and the dispossessed does not exempt the perpetrators. They feel it in mirror image, adding damage to their souls atop the damage that compels them to violence. Thus it is that suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Thus it is that addiction is rampant among the police. Thus it is that depression is epidemic in the upper middle class. We are all in this together.
Something hurts in there. Can you feel it? We are all in this together. One earth, one tribe, one people.
We have entertained teachings like these long enough in our spiritual retreats, meditations, and prayers. Can we take them now into the political world and create an eye of compassion inside the political hate vortex? It is time to do it, time to up our game. It is time to stop feeding hate. Next time you post on line, check your words to see if they smuggle in some form of hate: dehumanization, snark, belittling, derision… some invitation to us versus them. Notice how it feels kind of good to do that, like getting a fix. And notice what hurts underneath, and how it doesn’t feel good, not really. Maybe it is time to stop.
This does not mean to withdraw from political conversation, but to rewrite its vocabulary. It is to speak hard truths with love. It is to offer acute political analysis that doesn’t carry the implicit message of “Aren’t those people horrible?” … We need to confront an unjust, ecocidal system. Each time we do we will receive an invitation to give in to the dark side and hate “the deplorables.” We must not shy away from those confrontations. Instead, we can engage them empowered by the inner mantra that my friend Pancho Ramos Stierle uses in confrontations with his jailers: “Brother, your soul is too beautiful to be doing this work.”
If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.