By Jefferson Weaver
Two conversations with dear friends got me to thinking the other day about what things will be like when “this is all over.”
Whether “this” is the pandemic, the quarantine, the civil unrest, the safety social media offers cowards, the election, the growing decay of upbringing and manners — or all of the above and then some — I honestly don’t think I can remember so much pure, true hatred being spouted so readily.
Hatred is a strong word, but when that’s really the only one I can see that fits, and it saddens me.
I was thinking about the growing meanness the other day when I pulled in for lunch, and John called me over to his truck.
I don’t want to use his full name, since I don’t want to possibly embarrass him. He has some serious health issues, and has to use a walker. There are some other things we’ve talked about that I won’t share here, since it would serve no purpose. He was waiting for his order to be brought out, and was a bit lonely.
John is of the generation where one does not express touchy-feely expressions of emotions, but he is unashamed of his faith, whilst being ashamed of what society has become in less than his lifetime.
“What is wrong with people?” he said, knowing that I had no more idea than he did beyond a drifting away from when our country put godly principles, if not God, first in the family.
He described to me an angry outburst he had witnessed in the parking lot of a department store, and how there was no need for the outburst, much less the language that followed. Like me, he had read about the latest (to that point) attack on a police officer. Someone had told him to vote early, since there would be people trying to block voters on Election Day.
His heart hurt, he said, as does mine.
Another conversation a day or two later was far less tender. My other friend was angry, and with good reason. Not necessarily at me, but he was furious. I happened to be available, and I was okay with that.
“When are people going to start caring about people again?” he yelled, adding a few choice modifiers which I can’t repeat here. “It’s all politics. Nobody cares about the people who are hurting.”
There was a time when Jesse Helms had lunch with Tip O’Neil. Politicians my father excoriated in editorials and columns called the house to chat; some sent notes or called when Papa passed away. One of the most heartfelt greetings I had was from one of those gentlemen a few months later. He candidly admitted that my dad never said a positive thing about him in print, but they were always respectful and friendly with each other.
I had a drawn-out, pointed, and very passionate debate with a fellow online the other night. I can’t say we are friends – yet – but we could be. We disagree on virtually everything regarding politics and the American system of government, elections and the role of the bureaucracy.
Yet, we stayed civil. We stayed friendly. We defended each other when attacks from less diplomatic friends threatened to derail the conversation.
Then there’s another fellow whose friendship I once treasured.
I learned a lot from him, and shared things with him that he valued as well. We spent a lot of time working together on a project we both cared deeply about. On social media he called me a name I cannot repeat here, one which does him no credit as a molder of young minds, whilst describing in great glee how he hoped the president would die from COVID-19. He wants courts convened to send conservatives to jail. This fellow is no child, by the way. He’s a few years older than me, better educated, and in a job where one really should be careful when one says such things in public.
Another person wished that conservatives, especially the president, would have been aborted before they were born, and their mothers killed as punishment for having had babies who might someday become conservatives. Yet another that made the national news said that she hoped the president would die in a fire.
When I see stuff like this, I think back to the previous administration; I don’t recall a thing that fellow did with which I agreed, but I never wished him dead. I never wished him harm. I voted against him, twice (while holding my nose, since both candidates were simply the lesser of the evils.) But I never wished for his children to be placed in a cage and raped, as one Hollywood celebrity said of the youngest Trump.
I do not claim that there were or are no racist comments made about the former president. I do not claim that no one ever threatened him, or wished him ill will.
I am just simply saying I never did.
I trusted in the American system to allow folks to either endorse his way of doing business, or replace him through the legal process. I can’t speak for other folks, but there was a lot less pure-tee hatred just a few years ago than we are seeing now.
Some of this stuff was growing then. In the last election, I was blocked in my car when I went to go vote for President Trump, and the individuals who did so made no bones about their intentions.
My life was threatened – whether in the heat of the moment or sincerely – during the campaign, when a supporter of the last president swore that “blood would be in the streets” if he was not elected, and he would be sure mine was first.
Now we have college girls assaulting little kids, teachers reporting students for hate crimes because a student has a Trump flag visible in his bedroom, and another teacher wishing one of her children would be killed, because the child’s parents are Trump supporters. Thankfully, none of that has occurred around here this time, to the best of my knowledge, but you can easily find references to all three of the above incidents online with a simple search. And they are the rule, not the exception.
We have allowed a spirit of hatred to possess our country; I don’t understand why, except that it’s fairly obvious some folks have turned their backs on God and his word, and what the founders originally intended for this country, faith aside. There’s a desire for more of anything, at any cost, without working for that reward, and jealous hatred of anyone who has worked hard or benefitted from a parent’s hard work and success.
There is a media- and Hollywood-fueled ideal that if you don’t want to bear responsibility for your mistakes, you don’t have to, and anyone who disagrees is simply consumed with hate. What they don’t realize is that they are actually the ones doing the hating, and a soulless few are profiting very well from it.
I don’t have the answers everyone wants. I know my votes are based off of what I read in God’s word. I try to live my life that way, too, although I fail a lot. There are those with whom I disagree, and those who consider my disagreement to be criminal. I reckon that’s their right, even if it isn’t right. But I cannot understand truly hating another individual or people group, regardless of whether their words deserve a sock in the jaw.
John and I talked a long time the other day about hatred, diversity, race, responsibility, even differences between denominations. Everything in the end comes down to one thing, however, for believer and non-believer, conservative and liberal, Southern and Yankee, dog-lovers and cat fanciers. He said it beautifully, I think.
“We’re gonna be different,” John told me, motioning to a boy with huge piercings in his ears. “Imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same. We’te gonna disagree. But we gotta love each other with the love of Jesus. We just gotta. If a man can’t walk, we need to help him. You can’t be hatin’ people.”
We just have to stop hatin’ people, folks. Elsewise, this ain’t never going to be over.