By Jefferson Weaver
Sitting here staring at a screen, this is not the column I wanted to be writing this evening.
It’s Holy Week; I wanted to share a message of hope and love through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But instead, I’m writing about hatred.
We have the constitutional right to hate; it’s an inferred part of the freedoms of expression, of speech, of religion, and association in the First Amendment. The fact that we have the right to hate rather than love is part of the responsibility that comes with practicing our God-given, constitutionally protected rights. It’s legal, but it ain’t right.
I choose not to hate.
I wish others felt the same way.
A couple of kids were exercising their right to free speech Saturday in the town where I work. I cannot understand what motivated them to fly a variant of a Nazi flag on their pickup trucks. There’s a better than average chance, knowing our community, that some of their kinfolk fought against the bent X in Europe, or against its equally evil counterparts under the rising sun.
I sincerely hope they were not associating the evils of that symbol with a rally I helped cover uptown. The rally was also protected as a constitutional right. It wasn’t about hatred, regardless of what some folks on the other side of the issue might claim. The folks making those claims are, in my opinion, as bad as the kids flying swastikas on their squatted trucks – but they each have the right to express their opinions. There is no law against hatred.
Predictably, people blew up social media; thankfully, every post I saw roundly condemned the flags.
I saw more than a couple of kids making a really poor choice, a choice that I’m told caused some serious telephone calls to their parents by those unfairly and incorrectly daubed by that brush. I’m glad those calls were made. The threat of having someone call my parents when I was a teen (heck, when I was in my 20s) was incentive enough to avoid many a sketchy circumstance.
Sadly, some folks connected non-existent dots so they could push their own agendas. What angered and worried me was when those decided to take advantage of a bad situation for personal and political gain, forcing others to address a problem that wasn’t even theirs – a fight that didn’t even include their dog, if I may.
We have a passel of dogs at our house, most of hound extraction. Sometimes, two will get into a private tussle, and some of the others will jump in, unbidden. Before it’s over with, none of them have any idea why they are fighting, but they don’t care how much damage they case, just as long as they win. Usually Miss Rhonda and I have broken up the fight well before there’s a clear victor. You’d be surprised how quickly a dogfight stops when a human bites the dog.
By the time the evening is over, there’s a better than average chance the combatants will be licking each other’s wounds and jockeying for the prime spot on the couch or bed, with the battle forgotten, since they are family, and we don’t tolerate rude behavior in our house.
We have a lot of problems in our county, state and country. They are problems that should transcend race, party and socioeconomic status, problems that should encourage real leaders to work together. Problem is there are those who see problems as a source of power. Like a beaten dog, they would roll over, yipe and wet the floor if an actual solution were put into motion. I won’t roll out the now-tattered and well-read list of troubles here. We all know what they are, if we’re willing to be honest. Sadly, each problem intertwines with the others, to the point there ain’t no untangling the knot in this mule’s tail: you just have to get some scissors and cut out the bad part. Otherwise, the knot is just going to get worse.
That’s what I hope we as a community can do.
We have to work together to cut this knot cut out, the knot of bigotry and distrust and hatred. There are tangles of poor choices and worse deals and ineptitude, and in my opinion, true corruption. It might have to be done one knotted strand at a time – but we can straighten out this mess together. We just have to cut out the hatred.
People have a right to hate. If we want to see progress, we have a responsibility to overwhelm that hatred. We as a community have to come together to get rid of those who sow discord for personal or political profit, who give lipservice to progress while steadfastly worshipping the status quo. We need to set aside the politics and the politicians, the racists and the racecard players, the vultures whose nests are feathered by their cynical, stubborn blindness to the real problems that make our county a laughingstock. It doesn’t matter what color of skin, or where you’re from, or what your party is, or whether you’re rural or urban, if you truly care enough to set aside your ego for the benefit of the community as a whole.
We all know what we need to make our community vibrant again. We also have the ability to make it happen. That doesn’t mean setting aside basic principles. It means being willing to work together to find solutions that work for everyone, without favoring anyone. It means setting aside the hyperbole and rhetoric. It means enforcing the law, equitably and in accordance with the laws of the state and nation. It means creating an atmosphere that promotes good development and jobs. It means finding a solution to the drug crisis destroying our home. It means creating a level playing field without the intrusion of government, which often means well but rarely does well. It means we have to grow up and realize that nobody always gets everything that they want.
It means we have to sometimes disagree without being disagreeable, as someone said the other week.
It means we all need to remember we are all Americans, as someone else said this past Saturday.
But until someone is willing to jump in and break up the dogfight, we’ll keep biting each other and getting nowhere.
There’s a lot of Plott hound blood in my pack at home. Plotts are the official state dog. They’re smart, strong and stubborn. They’ll fight each other sometimes, but when they are willing to fight together, they can take down the meanest hog in the holler. We need to fight the hogs of hatred together, rather than tearing each other and our community apart.
Having a right to hate doesn’t mean hatred is the right thing.Share: