Choosing Love or Hate

Yesterday was a very angry day.

Not for me, I was fine. In fact, I spent the day doing things that I love. I rewatched Troy with the missus. I checked out some Alliance of American Football. I grilled. I had some beer and cut down all of those red-berry bushes my wife has been on me about. They’ve been on my list, so when the snow uprooted the bigger two entirely it created an opportunity. I’m all about opportunity.

So my day was great. Hers, too. She sorted through some old clothes. We continue to unpack the stuff we brought in the move that was still packed up because we didn’t know how long we’d stay. There’s now a bag in the garbage, a bag for the needy, and two piles were thrown in the laundry. Life is good.

The anger I saw was mostly from Christian conservative friends and family online. I mean, the most hateful stuff you can imagine. Mostly aimed at Muslims, but definitely aimed at Democrats. There must have been some serious stuff on Fox News about the physical barrier, the faux emergency at the border, or the Somali-American politician currently serving Congress in Minnesota’s 5th district. Maybe all three.

One guy posted that any leader that can’t swear allegiance to the Bible in America should be cast out of Washington. Another wondered aloud what happened to a (fictional) 1950’s law prohibiting Muslims from holding office. There was one false meme about immigrants bringing smallpox into the country through the southern border. I saw that one from three different people. In one of them the disease was changed, but they all used the same picture of an immigrant with scabies from 2014 to prove that the current caravan was carrying an epidemic into the U.S.

Is this a typical Sunday? I admit that a lot of Sundays I’m offline in the morning, meeting with friends or watching pregame football, so I don’t know. I do know this is nothing new, but there was a terrifying uptick of it yesterday. Why?

Another friend of mine – another conservative Christian – posted a meme about not using the Word of God to promote hate, but instead love. Although I did challenge the assertions of some of the others, I went out of my way to thank this last friend for finding meaning in his chosen faith. For recognizing that Christianity is supposed to be a religion of acceptance even if it is so rarely utilized that way. The reason the Christian faith became so popular in the world is because of its universality, not its exclusivity.

But going beyond that, the most popular belief system in the world today isn’t a religion but an ideology. Liberal democracy. Humanism. It is a particular strain of belief that says that all men and women are created equal. That each of us have an inalienable right to freedoms such as speech, expression, peaceable assembly, and our choice or not of religion. The last one guarantees the Somali-American politician currently serving Congress in Minnesota’s 5th a right to serve.

We can all disagree. I can believe there is no god and you can believe in as many as you like. I can accept downtrodden refugees at the border, and you can fear them. I can believe in the right to bear arms in America and also believe that we need better laws to control them. You can believe that abortion is murder and I can believe in a woman’s right to choose.

Our modern systems of government allow for those beliefs. And it is in the shared politic of public discourse that we come up with rules of law to guide us, and to ensure that my belief is not entirely imposed upon you and your belief is not entirely imposed upon me. Democracy guarantees a balance, or at least it ought to.

You folks out there aren’t “stupid Republicans.” I’m not an “idiot liberal.” We just see things differently, and that’s okay. What we absolutely have in common is that we do not want some authoritarian principle to enforce their beliefs upon us if they contradict our own.

That’s why America was made. To challenge authoritarian rule.

Democracy is sticky. It’s terrible, as Winston Churchill once said. The worst form of government except for all the others. It requires compromise.

We can have a great society. Build a better democracy. Be the beacon of the entire world. But we have to agree that we do not have all the answers, you or I. We have ideas and beliefs. And when we learn to talk those through, without the spite and hate, we become better people.

So leave the memes behind. Lose the hate. Ilhan Omar, my old youth pastor, my brother, and me. We’re probably all good people trying to figure out how to be better, how to live in this crazy world of competing ideas. We’re going to get a lot further in love than we ever will in hate.

That part I strongly believe.

57 thoughts on “Choosing Love or Hate

  1. ” the most hateful stuff you can imagine. ” Funny you should bring this up. I just read a book by the alt-right, and it is stranger than fiction. (Could it be true? I dunno. Looking into it.) Seems their world view is that Mulsim’s with their Sharia law have been trying to infiltrate American institutions, political and other professional fields and completely take us over. Get rid of us. The Qu’ran, “death to the infidels” and all that. A lot of 9/11 references. The division between Muslims/Christians goes back to the bible, with Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac: one son born from Abraham’s wife who founded the Christian Religion, the other son, born from Abraham’s “maid” who went off to start the opposite religions…the Muslims. They’ve been fighting ever since. Anyway, I can’t make this stuff up. Ask one of your Christian Conservative friends about it. I’m sure they can “educate” you. This world view is completely strange to me. But, according to this view, you cannot take a “kumbaya” view on life…you must take sides. And here I thought my fiction was too far out!! ‘Nuff said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I’m familiar with this narrow worldview. Many of the authors I’ve read (Sam Harris, maybe even Harari?) have talked about it, in-depth or in passing. There are extreme Christians and Muslims who absolutely believe that but, of course, the whole shebang is much more complicated than that. For such a complete and simple explanation of the world we have to assume that all Christians are the same as all other Christians and all Muslims are the same as all other Muslims, but we know that humanity is more complicated than that. It is akin to saying the entire 20th century was a battle between Capitalism and Communism and you either chose sides or else. Most didn’t, and the world ended up (by the end of the last century) as a mixed model of capital and social policies and by and large remains so today.

      The truth is the big battle is always about power, whether in the form of religion or politics or resources. Everybody at every level of power fights for a different reason (for a god, for money, for influence, even some for altruism) and the end result is policy based on an amalgamation of ideas. Deeper into that truth is the fact that most Christians are secular and most Muslims are becoming so. Their religion is a part of their life, not all of it.

      We do know that the world is becoming ever more complicated and closer to the proverbial brink (Harari points out the big three threats of nuclear devastation, climate collapse, and technological disruption). Singing kumbaya is probably inappropriate in the face of all that, but it is a coping mechanism for some. I don’t blame those folks for their chosen frolic. As long as they sing that instead of “death to infidels!” or “build that wall!” then at least they’re spending their time at peace, instead of promoting more hate. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Harari has the numbers: this narrow world view has cost the U.S. BILLIONS attempting to fight and prevent terrorism, while the cost of lives and damage (although emotionally sad) is less than the lives and damage compared to traffic accidents and diseases such as diabetes. Point being, hysterical fear factors seem to drive the world and the spending and the politics. With sensational headlines able to draw readership and viewership to newspapers, magazines television and other media, I, unfortunately, don’t see this narrow world view changing. I see it expanding…first…a wall….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “while the cost of lives and damage (although emotionally sad) is less than the lives and damage compared to traffic accidents and diseases such as diabetes.”

        Or even gun deaths or opiate-related casualties. Or lawn mowers or lightning.

        10x more people die from armed babies every year than terrorists. 350x more people die from falling out of the bed.

        No, this narrow view is pretty pervasive. Change? It will come slow. It is up to each of us to do our part in some small way. I write a blog about it occasionally. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d be more than happy to continue this discussion as well…just to wrap my head around this world view that the world is nothing more than a religious war: Christians vs Muslims going back to Abraham in the bible. Man’s law? Ignore it. Biblical? Well, who can argue?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I can. 😉 And I’m always happy to continue the discussion as well. But I maintain that the world is far more complicated than the division of Abraham’s sons in ancient times. There are those who’d love to simplify the equation that completely, and divide us all into only two camps (Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, Rock or Country) but we’re not that simple, individually or as a whole of humanity. We’re nuanced as hell. I won’t choose sides in any of those fights; I’ll keep searching between “truth” and “lies” instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Final comment: it was explained to me that Trump got elected mainly because of his anti-Muslim, anti-immigration stance. People believe the country is being invaded by barbarians. It’s how Rome fell. Go ahead. Try to dissuade them. I believe some famous author, who’s name eludes me at the moment, wrote: “Never waste your time arguing with idiots. They’ll overload you and bring you down to their level.”

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  4. I’m with you, but it is going to take a LOT to change the current climate. I think it has always been there but our current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has made it okay to spew such vitriol so it has become much more visable.

    Sad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Steve. Funny, when I call people out on it they generally (but not always) come back with some sort of “lol” apology and say they realize they get heated sometimes. I guess it’s true that the wall of social media allows for a certain amount of aggressive behavior akin to road rage…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Kim, I love that! Yeah, she is being savaged in conservative circles, but folks can’t leave it at ideology. Because she wears a hijab she represents, to them, the folks that took down the towers. One of the people I talked about above posted a picture of her and those towers on fire and said “I thought we said we’d never forget?!” That, I think, was the most shocking one of all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh the hate mongers… they are alive and well. The funny thing is, 95% of the population are productive, loving, and kind people. It’s the 5% that we deal with, mainly on political platforms (but also on ANY platform). Fear drives hate. What they have to be fearful of? Man, who knows… although I’m a WASP, my family is like sitting down with the League of Nations. So my biases are few and far between probably because the ‘norm’ for me is inclusivity of all races and creeds. I respect individuality but I want to be part of it as well. Does that even make sense? You really summed up this post with words of wisdom, Tom. I am so grateful we are in the same tribe! Again, well done, my friend.😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel for ya. I can only think of 3 reasons why someone would be a Trumpkin/repub in this climate. Greed, racism or ignorance. It sucks when someone you know and like is suffering from one of those conditions. I guess all you can do is hope the Kool-aid they’re drunk on wears off.

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    1. Thanks, MP. I’ve tried reasoned argument, even heated debate. Guess I’ll try love now. I won’t, in any case, resort to acceptance. Greed, racism, and ignorance are unacceptable, particularly when used to promote hate.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Suzanne. Canada is often held up by lefties down here as a bastion of possibility, but it’s good to know that (or perhaps not “good” but “important”) there are problems of this sort everywhere. Hate is such an easy emotion that, for some, it’s easier to just let it in. I reject it.

      Like

  6. Again, nice sentiment. Hope it sticks. Don’t think it will, though. Of all the things the internet was hoped to provide, creating and enlarging insular, ideological groups was not one of them. The disinformation engines are just getting started. The Wall is really a digital crevasse across which bridges are attempted but memes erode and simpletons cast into the dark.
    Literally the only thing that could unite humanity is a threat from above – Aliens hellbent on domination. And seeing how that ain’t gonna happen, our insular cliques of RighteousRights and LiberalLefts will only strengthen.
    (The subject does make good fodder for blog posts though.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! True. And as I said in my last post, I simply write about what’s been on my mind lately. Yesterday it was that fermenting in my brain. I know it is impossible to change the world with mere words (or love), but maybe we only believe that because it hasn’t happened yet. 😉

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  7. It’s mostly fear and ignorance my friend. And ‘organised’ religion (which my interpretation is, a group of people who believe theirs is the only way). It has a lot to do with a human’s need to belong and feel special. So these days I just let it go.

    I have family members that post terrible stuff which I never respond to. I did once (I think I said something like “Muslim != ISIS” just like “Christian != Westboro”, and never heard from that relative again.

    I don’t get involved. I think Faith and Belief are intensely personal and not really anyone elses business.

    Sorry you had an angry day, bud. But you’re dead-on when you talk about “being better” – that’s the best we can do, since we are all imperfect. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Samantha. I tried to ignore it and went out and cut up some shrubs. But the Tommy-brain don’t work like that so I came back in and spoke my piece on some of their walls. Because I try to be respectful in my admonishment my counters are usually taken well; we can mostly talk or agree to disagree. I haven’t time for internet arguments anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can let the darkness hang out there for all to see, either. Someone out there needs the light, and I’m gonna shine it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Several years ago I got into an online discussion with someone about the ceremony of using a Bible to swear in elected officials. I pointed out that the Constitution forbids the use of any religious test for public office and that no one, not even the president, is required to take the oath of office on any religious text. He ignored the part about the Constitution and said, “Name one who hasn’t!” And I replied, “I’ll name two: John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt.”
    I never heard from him again.
    That experience, particularly his disappearance, makes me think about a couple of things. In order to have some reasonable, well-intentioned conversations we’re going to have to agree on some facts, but, more importantly, we’re going to have to be willing to have those conversations.
    Thank you for your willingness to be part of the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did not know that about Teddy and Quincy. When I looked it up for reference I see that Franklin Pierce, as well, used a “book of law.” I have a new aspiration to add to my list of desired presidential traits: I want the next good one to forgo the silly Bible part of their swearing-in. Thanks for that, and your entire enlightening reply, Chris!

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  9. I love so much about this post Tom. Balanced, based on the quest for peace and inclusive. Having said that, I am going to venture to say that I am the only conservative that follows you.
    First, separate the words “Christian” and “Conservative”. You don’t have to be both to be one. Evangelicals are a narrow-minded, hateful bunch and I will never associate myself with them. I am a fair, peaceful guy that also hates misguiding memes and hateful speech.
    But…there is a crisis at the border. It is not manufactured and it is a real problem from a humanitarian, health and economic viewpoint. We are a nation of laws, period. You are expected to follow laws and earn priveledges, why isn’t it the same for all.
    Ilhan Omar is a racist, hateful and uneducated disgrace. She openly hates Jews and supports Farrakhan, the worst of the worst.
    As for the Bible and the swearing in process, not constitutional. Church and State.
    I am going to ask you to remember that you preached acceptance, inclusivity and open-mindedness in this post. I respect the hell out of you and your approach, I just strongly disagree with you.
    One last thing…most of the hate is coming from the unhinged left. Not good democrats, but the loud, unreasonable, stop at nothing to spread divisiveness left.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. IMHO religion is used as an excuse, as is the left/right argument. They both divide people whilst at the same time demanding tolerance. Nothing will change until people say ‘you don’t agree with me? That’s ok’. Great thought provoking post Tom 😊 x

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Lisa! It can be said, for sure, that the division (whether religious or political) hurts us all and helps those in power to secure and keep their status. I’m 100% fine with everyone following their own path and story (what Harari would call their own personal fiction) as long as those stories do not preclude the stories of others (or stifle their freedoms or bring them harm). Be you, as I always say, and I’ll be me. 🙂

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  10. Excellent response! Let’s address this in the old bulletin board style so I don’t miss any salient points:

    Thank you!

    The only one who engages online, certainly. I welcome more.

    Absolutely. I was careful to do so. There are liberal Christians, moderate Christians, and atheist Conservatives, no doubt. The people I was referring to are the people in my circle who are both, thus I used the term “Christian conservatives.” Very specific group of folk I know.

    There is, most certainly. There is also a health care crisis in our country, a crisis of gun-violence, an education crisis, and a worldwide crisis of global warming, to go along with our crises (plural) at the border. There is not, however, an emergency at the border (nor are refugees coming across carrying the plague). Those are manufactured stories to feed the narrative. It could be argued, as a matter of fact, that many of the other crises I’ve mentioned, and others, are closer to being an emergency than any of the crises at the border. It’s also been determined that the mere presence of a wall will not solve any of the border crises we acknowledge.

    Not everyone has the luxury of thinking of those laws above their own instinct for survival, and I don’t blame ’em. Plus, as you know, our “nation of laws” favors certain members of our populace over others. There is, by some accounts, a crisis of law in our country, too (coupled with a crisis of corruption).

    I don’t know all that much about her. If true, that’s terrible. It’s also terrible that that entire first sentence could be said about the current President of the United States, too, and has.

    Yeah, I wasn’t the guy who said otherwise. It isn’t necessary to believe in the Bible to be political leader in this country, and you don’t have to swear on any religious text at all to take the oath of office.

    My point exactly. I have never had a problem with a Christian person, a Muslim person, a Republican, a Democrat, a Jewish person, a black person, a white person, a brown person or any other person of any other description who preached love and acceptance over hate and intolerance. I always have a problem with hate and intolerance.

    Not in my experience.

    Thanks again, Bill, for reading, responding, and engaging. More to come, for sure!

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  11. Excellent post Tom! I don’t want to mistakenly repeat any of the vibrant comments you’ve received so I’ll try to keep it brief. I admire your heart, you have a huge one and it shines through in your words!

    I find people who suspect savagery in others allow themselves to behave in the most savage ways. I cannot stress enough how deeply this false narrative of immigrants bringing crime, disease and/or poverty has affected me. It’s something I cannot pretend doesn’t exist, no matter how often people (on every side and even those well-meaning) tell me I should. We see manifestations of the hate online, that I’ve become all too aware of in my daily life. We’re lucky to experience and understand the benefits of diversity, love and open-mindedness. I can only hope that those who haven’t/aren’t willing to don’t get to dictate life for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, MP! I know your story and the stories of those I’ve grown up with, went to school with, and I know the anger and incivility of the ignorant and wretched. And when I see it so close to home – from brothers and friends – it gets to me. I can’t be silent about it, and I won’t be. It’s time to forge a greater path, and head to higher ground. Anyone, I think, unable to rise above the pettiness, hate, and lies, may find themselves left behind. Love you, sister!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You know what’s kind of funny? When I look at someone doing something differently than I do, my FIRST thought is, ” I wonder if I can improve on how I am doing something. Never does it come out of my mouth that they are doing it wrong, maybe differently, but not wrong.
    I admire your passion for encouraging people to be kind to others. I don’t have the energy to do that right now, but I promise you and myself, that I will continue to try to make a difference by example.

    Liked by 1 person

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