Jacob Meeks

After Portland, after everything, I ask: why hate?

I live in Portland, the latest city to be brushed by hate. Which got me thinking, those people we supposedly hate, are the same people who give us our identity. So what does it give us?

 

 

 

I don’t know if I understand hate. I don’t know if I’ve ever understood hate. I get it on an intellectual level. I get that people have their reasons to hate others, regardless of whether those reasons have any truth or not. I think I’ve even felt hate. I’ve felt rage. I’ve despised people. But I’ve never been in a place where I would take that out on anyone.

As time passed though and I looked at my own hate or anger, I saw that most of it was born out of my own ignorance, my own fear, my own pain. It was selfish. It was small. It had nothing to do with the world and everything to do with me.

There was an attack here in Portland, Oregon, the other day. A man on the rail car was yelling at two young women, one of them wore a hijab. The man was yelling all kinds of racial slurs and such. A few other passengers stepped in and tried to diffuse the situation. Three of them were stabbed. Two of them died.

That was an attack born out of hate. It was one man, who was a known white supremacist, taking his hate out on people. That kind of hate is born out of ignorance. That kind of hate is born out fear. That kind of hate is born out of small thinking. That kind of hate doesn’t know any race, religion, or politics, it just hates. It hates whatever it sees as different. It hates itself most of all because deep down it knows how truly small and pathetic it is. It can’t do anything else in the world so it lashes out. Like the scared little thing that it is.

It lashes out and eventually it destroys things in its path. It takes life. Whether it’s two lives or many, many more. All hate, in all its forms, should be called out. All things that destroy life should be called out. Whether those things are driven by hate or driven by greed or fear or simply the fact that one refuses to look at people as human and would rather see them as “other” or, maybe worse, just numbers on a sheet of paper.

It seems to me the very thing that gives you an identity are the people that you hate. If you take them away, who the fuck are you?

Hate is a funny thing. I’m not sure if it starts with a feeling or a thought. I suppose it could be either. Hate is a poisonous garden that one grows in one’s own mind. That garden, it requires seeds and watering. Unfortunately, in today’s digital age, it is far easier to find water and seeds for hate than it ever was before. Just look in any comments section anywhere. In a lot of places, I pray that those comments are made by bots or paid trolls or something. If they’re actual people, it does make me question humanity.

That’s what I don’t get about hate. I don’t understand the point. I don’t understand the point of hating someone else. Let me rephrase that: if you hate someone, an individual, because they did something vile and despicable to you or people you cared about, I can understand that. That may eat you up someday, but it is understandable and human. That’s not the hate I’m talking about here.

The hate I’m talking about is when one takes that hate and transfers it onto a whole group of people who generally have one common identifying factor and may be completely different from each other in every other regard. Or, even worse, when one sees something on the news or on the Internet or wherever and decides “I’m going to hate those people”. I don’t get the point of that hate. What do you want at the end of the day? What’s the purpose?

You want your own nation or something? You want a place where everyone looks like you, talks like you, believes what you believe, thinks like you think? That would be boring as shit to me. That’s just me though. You deal with yourself. But…if whatever group that you hate now wasn’t in that place, what would you do with yourself? It seems to me the very thing that gives you an identity are the people that you hate. If you take them away, who the fuck are you? I bet money, even in that “ideal” world of yours, that people would have to find something new to hate. Because they forgot or never learned how to feel anything else. That’s sad, man. I know what it’s like to not feel good emotions and it’s sad if you lose those. It’s no way to live.

You must pull that hate out, uproot it, like a weed in a garden. It’s the enemy of good living. It’s the enemy of life itself, because it only breeds death and destruction wherever it goes.

Last week, there were some former colleagues of mine in town for a conference. The ones I knew and had worked with happened to be female and from the Mid-East or Latin America. It breaks my heart about my country and my city that they could be harassed or assaulted based on the colour of their skin or the way they look or the language they might speak. It especially bothers me because I lived in their countries and those countries were good to me. How could I look at someone that had me in their home and was good to me yet be hesitant to invite them into my home for fear of how people might act? That’s not okay.

I may not fully understand hate, I probably have a decent grasp on it though. That’s important. It’s important to understand your enemy and I do consider hate our enemy. It’s the enemy of good living. It’s the enemy of life itself, because it only breeds death and destruction wherever it goes.

It must be fought. First with words and ideas. Because ignorant words and ideas create hate. They drive hate. They make hate flourish. So, you must fight those words and ideas with words and ideas, and not allow that hate to become violent. Even better, you must transform that hate into something else. Even better than that, you must pull that hate out, uproot it, like a weed in a garden. However, should that hate become violent, then one has to be prepared to confront it. That is the cold reality of the world we live in.

I think we all need to do more confronting on both small and large levels. Those confrontations must be done with intelligence and compassion. They must be done skilfully. Because hate is extremely strong and the only way to take it down is with skill, love, and courage.

To those three men who put their lives on the line the other day and the two who lost their lives in order to confront hate, thank you. You have certainly renewed my faith in this city. I only hope we can all learn from your example.

 

Jacob Meeks

Jacob Meeks is an aid worker, a leader, an operations professional, a complex problem solver, a veteran, and a writer. He has been working for the past seven years as a humanitarian in a variety of different locations from South Sudan to Lebanon. These experiences have afforded him a broader cultural look at the world and also offered a great many learning opportunities. Jake hopes to learn from these opportunities, stay involved in the humanitarian world, become more involved in the veteran’s world, and eventually become a writer in film, television, or another medium.

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