Rhetoric Of Hate

My blogging buddy Keith, who is almost always spot on (I know because I always tend to agree with him), recently responded to one of his readers who was commenting on the awful rise in gun deaths in this country. Keith worried that, given this nation’s proclivity for violence, with the rise in “rhetoric and hate mongering” there would be more hate crimes.

I have commented before about the terribly weak claim of those who defend the widespread sale of all manner of guns on the grounds that this is our “right” as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. This claim is based on a complete misunderstanding of that Amendment which is all about the militia and only tangentially about guns. It defends the right of the militia to their guns because those who wrote the Amendment wanted to have nothing to do with a standing army and thought an armed militia would be sufficient deterrent to those crazies over there in England (or wherever) who might want to once again take over this country. In any event, the sale of automatic weapons to anyone with the money to pay for them is madness and would never have been defended by the founders of this nation. But it matters not, because the “gun control” discussion is not based on reason and historical fact. It is based on rhetoric and hate mongering, as Keith pointed out.

What we fear and hate is almost always what we do not understand. In a word, the root cause of the increase in mass murders can be put down to the fact that so many citizens in this country are simply ignorant of other people and their beliefs, thus they are easily persuaded that “they” are out to get “us.” As long as our politicians, and those who would be politicians, play on our fears and can rely on our ignorance hate crimes will continue and will indeed increase. And this seems to be the order of the day: frantic rhetoric by those who claim to be in the know that appeals to fear and increases hatred of those who are different from us or who practice a different religion.

I must confess that I do not know much about the religion of Islam. That is a gap in my education that I really need to fill in. But I do want to know more about it and what I do know I respect: it is a religion of peace and love — just as Christianity is supposed to be.  The son of one of my friends converted to the religion of Islam and is now living with his wife in the Middle East. He was raised a Lutheran and converted because he decided after considerable thought and research that becoming a Muslim would make him a better person, that there was less hypocrisy in that religion and for the most part those who practice it are loving and decent people — just like him. Now I don’t know whether he is right, though he seems happy to have made that radical change in his life. I do know that the Quran teaches that the purpose of human existence is to worship God. I also know that those who form groups like IS are part of the lunatic fringe, just as those who preach hatred in the name of Christ are part of the lunatic fringe. Of increasing concern in this regard is that, as things are progressing, that fringe seems to be expanding and the rhetoric of hate that issues forth from the lips of political candidates like Donald Trump do nothing less than throw gasoline on a fire that may already be out of control.

The only way to root out fear and eliminate hatred of those who differ from us is to get to know them better, to try to understand where they are coming from and what they most deeply believe. It is one thing to have “gun control” and to try to keep weapons out of the hands of those who are clinically insane and I support those controls. But it will not solve the problem, sad to say. What must happen is that all of us must want to understand things and people we are afraid of. If I know the sound in the other room that scared me moments ago was the cat I will not be afraid. Knowledge is the key to rooting out fear — together with a determination to accept the fact that those who preach hatred must be ignored if they cannot be made to shut up.


5 thoughts on “Rhetoric Of Hate

  1. Spot-on, Hugh. There’s no single-source solution to this, so we have to be willing to work at putting together a complex response, and we have to be smart enough to see that being proactive — learning about others, reaching out to them not alienating them, is so much more valuable than being reactive. It’s the old ‘an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” mindset, and we must seek it. I heard on public radio today a Russian official whose country had a jet blown up by ISIS not long ago talking not about blood-revenge but a complex response evidently already in the works that will, yes, target ISIS and its money sources militarily, but also seek to address to the social and economic conditions that have fed the growth of some of the extremist groups.

    Last week’s New Yorker had an interesting piece, a corollary of sorts. For four years in the mid-2000s, northeastern Syrian — the country’s wheat-producing land — experienced severe drought. Syrian officials sought international aid, but didn’t get much, especially from the American administration of George W. Bush. Thousands of Syrians, starving and their farmland turned to waste, had to relocate to bigger cities — this disaster and the world’s basically ignoring the plight of many, has been apparently a key factor in the Syrian civil war. Not the only factor, of course, but many of the farmers relocated to cities like Homs that have been hot-beds of opposition to Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad. Had something been done sooner to aid those hit by the drought, it may have eased one source of unrest.

    I am with you 100 percent on assault weapons. I believe we should start calling them what they really are: weapons of mass destruction. We would not allow anyone to carry poison gas or nuclear bombs in their pickups, or store them in their basements — assault weapons are not hunting rifles or shotguns, nor even the handguns many think they need for self-defense. If a person wants to use an assault rifle, semi-automatic pistol, fast-loading clips, etc. they should, indeed, join the military.

  2. Thanks Hugh. Today, I caught an episode of The View with my wife. Not a frequent watcher, I was intrigued that the had a Jewish Rabbi, Muslim leader and a Catholic Priest. It was a terrific conversation that started around the New York Post headline of Muslim Killers, which is inflammatory. It indicts a whole group of people for the actions of a few and will lead to hate crimes. This was echoed by all. The female Muslim noted two additional things. After the PP shooting this week, the headlines did not read Christian Killer. Plus, she noted that ISIS is watching us and our headlines go straight into their recruiting materials. The Priest noted that it is more than OK for us to question our faith in times of crises. He said God can handle it.

    I have always felt interfaith dialogue is healthy. This was a great example. Thanks again, Keith

  3. Hugh, let me add a corollary to my point. One of the conservative hosts asked about the war on prayer on the New York Times headlines of God Cannot Fix This. The priest said he did not view it this way. Jesus taught us often that prayer without action is insufficient. He said Jesus noted 50 times that if we do not help when we can, that is sinful.

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