Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Hate That Word!


Hate. Hate. Hate.

Everywhere I go I hear "I hate this" or "I hate that". From kids, it's I hate broccoli, I hate liver and onions, and I hate
school. From Democrats, it's I hate Bush. From conservatives, it's I hate pansy ass liberals. Got an actor you don't like, well, if someone mentions his name, do you go, I hate that person? I hate the freeways, I hate my job, I hate my boss, I hate my ex-wife, I hate the weather, I hate, I hate, I hate...

It's enough to make me want to scream, Stop!

It seems like we live in a hate filled the society. And no one seems to be immune. Talk to someone long enough and eventually you'll get to something they hate and get a very passionate about.

I know a very well-intentioned priest who, by and large, is a very nice person. In church she will preach upon "loving thy neighbors as ourselves" and then after church will speak in derogatory fashion about anyone who labels themselves as a conservative. The priest is politically prejudiced, but if I called that person prejudiced against conservatives to her face she would argue vehemently against it!

Here's a little test. One day, during your entire waking hours, listen for the word hate. Not just outside the home, but in your family as well. Include your wife/partner/kids/relatives at home, pay attention to what they say. What do you hear in the carpool/bus ride/radio? What about at work? Listen to your coworkers and management, as well as customers if you have them. If you listen to talk radio, notice how often it comes up? When you get home, and watch TV/cable, note how often do you hear it?

Listen to your friends. Listen to your self. I guarantee you that you will lose track of how many times you hear it.

When you question a person about their use of the word hate, usually they will eventually admit that they don't really hate something, they just don't like it. However, they will argue that they don't see anything wrong with using the word hate. The trouble is, what happens when you/they really hate someone, like terrorism? Or war? Or cruelty? Or evil in the world?

The human mind, through language, operates using symbolism. We attach word/symbols to ideas, peoples, and things. It helps us sort out what we like and we don't like, what we trust and don't trust. If I hate broccoli and I hate terrorists have I denigrated terrorists to the level of broccoli or is broccoli so bad that I must expunge it from the earth?

I have a daughter and every time she uses the word hate I ask her, do you really hate it or is it that you just don't like it? And she always sheepishly admits that she really doesn't hate it, but that she just doesn't want to eat it. That I can understand! *chuckle*

I try to do the same with my own words. If I catch myself saying I hate something, I tried to quickly correct and say, no, I'm sorry, I just don't like it.

It's the only way we are going to stop the misuse of this word and the emotions and feelings that come with it, to diminish its use in our vocabulary and our society.

There is something else wrong with the word as well. When we use it against a group of people or a particular type of person, it is the first step to dehumanizing that group or person. If I hate someone or a group it's much easier to feel no pity for them and their situation. And when you dehumanize them and cease to pity them it is much easier to incarcerate them, expel them from society, or even execute them.

One simple word. A word that stirs up emotions and passions. An overused word that makes it easier for us to treat others with contempt and disrespect. Quite frankly, there is enough contempt and disrespect in the world as it is without trying to create more of it.

I was born on the tail end of the baby boomer generation. As I was growing up I heard a lot of talk about love and peace. Admirable things. The world needs more love and peace. Alas, the only way we're going to be able to make room for love and peace is if we begin by trying to eliminate hate and war first.

One parting comment (laced with a bit of irony). I had a discussion about the overuse of the word hate with a friend not too long ago. We were in complete agreement by the end of the conversation. So much so, that in parting he made it emphatically clear that he hated hate.

I'd cry if it weren't so funny!



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