My right to hate

I can’t help it – I hate Brussels sprouts. Even ones cooked with apricots and bread crumbs and lots of butter. I hate Brussels sprouts.

Hatred. Is it my right to hate?  What is it about hatred that makes me draw in a quick breath or, were I Catholic, I might cross myself?  The Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad gita have pretty strong things to say about hatred.

It’s not just brussels sprouts I hate. There are situations I hate too. I hate famines and injustice and abuse and inequality. I hate children working in factories. I hate children suffering from sickness and disease. I hate women being beaten and mutilated for religious or tribal reasons. I hate war. I hate genocide. I hate the fact that one of my students has just become her own only living relative because her mother died after only four weeks of fighting cancer.  I hate that human beings seem to perpetually hurt other human beings.

But here’s something else I’m not always keen to admit – there are some people I hate too. And no, I’m not talking about Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. I’m talking about real, living people. They aren’t people I keep in my circle of friends or even acquaintances. Invariably, they are people who have hurt me. I’m not proud of this nor am I asking to be excused. I don’t want hatred in my life. I do believe it destroys and weighs us down. I do believe love is better than hatred.

But the question is – do I have a right to hatred?  I don’t hate for no reason but is hatred, justified or not, a right?  Do I have a right to love whom I want to love?  And conversely, do I have a right to hate whom I want to hate?  The Charter tells me I have no right to publish hateful things about people. And I have no right to commit crimes or acts of violence because of my hatred. In fact, society is so disturbed by this idea that punishments are harsher and more far-reaching when it is determined that hate was the reason, the motivation for the crime. When hatred is geared at people because of the colour of their skin or because of their sexual orientation or their gender, we have said as a society that we won’t accept it, that we will punish those crimes, that we will stand with those victims?

But what if no crime has been committed?  What if I keep my hatred outside the purview of the law?  What if I hate because I’ve been hurt or because I don’t like the colour of your skin or because your sexuality intimidates me but I keep it to myself?   Without becoming too Bible-thumpish, this concept (which appears in many different religious texts) has always made me think: anyone who hates his brother (or sister) is a murderer and you know that no murderer has (eternal) life in him (or her).

What if my hatred only rears its head in the subtle turns of phrases, in the movies I choose to see or the books I choose to read or the friends I choose to keep?  Then what?  What if my hatred never turns into physical violence, at least not by me?  Is it my right to hold onto hatred? To build my life around those inner world pillars of hatred?    But I’m not sure humans really have the ability to keep their hatred just to themselves. What we believe about the world necessarily influences the choices we make, the words we say, the acts we commit. And when hatred leaves us and enters into another’s space, I believe hatred destroys and kills. Maybe not in a way that looks like murder under the law but in ways that kill life and freedom and sense of worth and well-being.  Would you hold me responsible for the actions of someone who hears me talk about my hatred and takes over the burden herself, with less self-control and more displays of physical violence?

A recent Supreme Court of Canada trial, the murder (and celebrations of that murder) of Moammar Ghadafi, and an ongoing discussion with office mates all spurred me into this writing frenzy. Once again, I have mostly questions that circle back in on themselves and slippery ideas that are incredibly hard to hold onto.  And I’d welcome any feedback, whether in love or otherwise.

Do I have a right to hate?

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