“Hatred eats the soul of the hater not the hated.” — Alex Serz-Hommer
Hate is one of those words that seems to be overused to the point that people don’t remember what it really means and entails. I myself have very recently learned that there is a difference between hate and anger.
On Saturday, August 12th, a group of protesters carried out peaceful demonstration in Charlottesville, VA against a gathering of white supremacists. A woman named Heather Heyer was killed when a man reported to be a neo-Nazi allegedly drove a vehicle into these individuals.
Within the past 72 hours, I have observed many heated reactions to Heather Heyer’s death and the circumstances that surround it. Some have referred to this as ‘hate responding to hate’. However, upon close reflection, I have realized that the response is, instead, anger.
Hate and anger may look or sound the same, but there truly is a stark difference between the two. Take hearing versus listening, for example, summarized excellently by the University of Minnesota Duluth:
Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.
Likewise, anger is a mental and physiological response that peaks, then eventually tapers off to a middle ground. Anger, like joy or sadness, eventually passes. Hate, on the other hand, is a conscious, self-justified ideology, largely blind to reason. Hate takes on many forms, and often believes itself to be right above all others.
In short, anger can be reasoned with, while hate consumes.
It is important to point out that the majority of people responding on the side of Heather Heyer and the peaceful protesters is anger, and not hate.
The persons protesting that day were standing up against a proven threat to society. Peaceful protest has never been synonymous with rainbows, flowers, and unicorns; it is always brought on by strong counter feeling. But it doesn’t mean that it is fueled by hate.
A person died that day. People are tired and scared. They don’t know what to do anymore, now that threats of mortal and bodily harm have resurfaced as much more than threats on such a public, unchecked level.
This is a terrifying situation that affects all of us. A lot of people feel helpless, but it’s important to remember that hate groups are still very much the minority. It all may seem so much bigger than those who fight against it, and yet it is still being fought.
I am hopeful that the majority will remain angry enough to stand up for what is right, to call out hate for what it is, and more importantly, to make the distinction.
And in discerning just where one’s motivation lies, I am hopeful that people will be able to spot the difference.