There are some things you never expect to see. Yesterday, in between goofing around with friends and a relaxing afternoon spent with my couch and trusty Netflix account, one of those things happened. My CNN app alerted me to breaking news. I assumed that, like the last 50 or so, this would be regarding the fact that the missing Flight 370 had still not been located. It seems that CNN can be quite liberal with the phrase “breaking news.”
Instead, it was something much different. In Overland Park, Kansas, a city adjacent to where I grew up, where I had attended college, where I had met my wife, a man had opened fire outside of a Jewish community center killing a grandfather and his grandson, then killing a woman who was visiting her mother at a nearby assisted-living facility. The suspect was apprehended at a nearby school where, once arrested, the man would sit in the back of the patrol car shouting “Heil Hitler!”
The suspect is known to have founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party. This man was so filled with hate for another group of people that he saw nothing wrong with aiming and firing indiscriminately (the grandfather and grandson were Methodist, only at the Jewish center for a talent show audition). For years, he had devoted time to hating, even being discharged from the army for distributing racist propaganda.
This post is not about gun control or the lack thereof. There is no government regulation that could have prevented this tragedy from happening. This happened because of one terrible human attribute: hate. The end results of this man’s years of hate are shattered families and a devastated community.
It would be nice to think while reading this that this was an ideology that is dying off. My generation, after all, is supposed to be the generation of “post-racial” thought. We should be far removed from this 73-year-old and his unfounded animosity. I would like to think that, but in an imperfect world there will always be hate. And this world is certainly imperfect.
There is a person I have spoken with every day for the past few months. He is very quick to label certain ethnic groups as “trashy” or “not classy.” When I ask him about this, the response is always the same shrug of the shoulders. Not only does he not see this as a negative outlook, he says that these thoughts are not racial but, “just the truth.”
While he is a far cry from the man who headed to a Jewish community center the day before Passover with gun in hand, this is an example of the thoughts that can lead to drastic actions. Thoughts like this may seem harmless to some people, but all it does is continue to foster the hate that has destroyed so many lives in the past.
And it is not just race either. Raised in a post-911 world, there are many who see all Muslims as violent terrorists. There is hate for people with differing opinions, Democrats and Republicans blindly hating the other group, calling them all idiots or, ironically, “hate-mongers.” There is volatility to the internet with cyber-bullying leading to multiple teen suicides. Hate appears to be everywhere we go.
I wish I could say that I was immune from this, but I have felt hatred as well. Growing up in eastern Kansas, I was witness to the group called The Westboro Baptist Church. Led by Fred Phelps, this group of individuals spends every waking hour planning protests against views that they deem sinful. Their website is a monument to groups that they say God hates, from the entire country of Mexico to the Catholic Church. They even wrote a post thanking God for “sending the shooter to the Jews.” Their main target of disdain had been the homosexual community.
For years, this was the living vision of hate for me. They would be seen with their signs declaring God’s hate for various groups. When their leader Fred Phelps died last month, there was a part of me that said “good riddance.” This man had been hate incarnate for years and now he was gone.
Then I thought about it. I was celebrating the death of a human being. I was behaving just as he would have and it made me feel a bit sick. For years, I had railed against this church and, in the end, I was thinking in a very similar way. I had involuntarily begun to hate.
But how could this be stopped? If people were to stop labeling groups, it would help. We could work towards a better understanding of each other and appreciation of the differences that each group brings to the table. Unfortunately, though, I do not think there is a solution. I wish that I could see a time in the future where people’s hate would disappear or at the very least not lead to death. I would love to view the world through rose-colored glasses and think everything is going to be okay, we can all learn to peacefully coexist, and the world will one day be a harmonious place.
The truth is humans are imperfect. Until that stops, hate will continue. There will be more senseless killing and people will be destroyed physically and emotionally. Maybe I am pessimistic, but it seems that this is the sad truth.
The truth can really suck sometimes.