October 2, 2016

Why Hate, even Justified, will Ruin us All.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared his intention to stick with love, because “hate is too great a burden to bear.”

In this election cycle, I find that hate is still too great a burden, but it is a tempting one.

It is far too easy in this election to justify lashing out with anger, contempt and hatred. Donald Trump is an emotionally abusive bully who blatantly lies. Hillary Clinton is a career politician with serious credibility problems. Clinton is unapologetically pro-choice; Trump is unapologetically pro-business.

This is not the first time we have had a contentious campaign. It’s not the first time we’ve watched a man bully a woman in public. It’s not the first time we’ve seen friendships degrade over politics. But social media has turned the internet into your worst Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone playing the part of drunk Uncle Howard.

I have been drawn into the mess myself. I have posted hateful and disrespectful images. I have mocked the candidates. I have mocked people who support the candidates.

But in all the chaos, I still hear some calm voices. The voices of people who understand that hate is too great a burden, even when it’s justified.

If I believe that love wins over hate—if I believe that my own actions affect the world around me—then I must choose love.

>> That means I cannot gloat when Trump stumbles, acts the fool or otherwise fails.
>> That means I cannot mock Trump’s body as revenge for his fat-shaming comments.
>> That means I cannot start rumors about Trump’s health.
>> That means I cannot immediately reject a person who chooses to vote for a third party.
>> That means I cannot immediately reject a person who does not support Clinton.
>> That means I cannot reject a person who supports Trump passionately.

And I hate that. I feel self-righteous about how wrong Trump is. I feel justified in my deep cynicism about him. I feel morally superior in judging his racism.

But self-righteousness, justification and superiority are the path to where Trump himself stands.

If I choose to be justified and correct and superior, then I will carry the burden of it. I will have to keep on being justified in all I post. I will have to be correct about every fact I cite. I will have to be superior to everyone. That’s just exhausting.

I choose love. But what does that mean? How can I be loving in this election?

First, I can love the people I know, even the ones who are ardent Trump fans. I chose them to be in my circles of community. Love means accepting the differences of others.

Second, I can respect Trump as a human being. Those statues of nude Trump? I don’t have to look at them, or “like” them on Facebook. Trump, just like every human being, has inherent worth and dignity regardless of his actions or opinions. If he chooses to be racist and hate-filled, that does not mean his life is worthless.

Third, I can turn my judgment inward. It is a truism that what we dislike the most in others is what we dislike the most in ourselves. If I am angered that Trump calls women “fat pigs,” then in what area of my life do I judge people based on appearances? If I am angered that Trump blatantly lies, then in what area of my life am I being dishonest?

Finally, I can be a safe space for everyone. I can continue to listen when someone talks to me about politics, even if I think she’s wrong on all counts. I can publicly admit my own failings. I can guard my own speech to make sure it is gentle and kind.

These things are not easy. Just writing them down makes me feel a little sick. But that is the paradox of love and hate. Acting in love can be the hardest thing in the world to do, but it is the easiest burden to bear. Acting in hate is usually the easiest way to act, but it is the hardest burden to bear.

I am not a politician. I am not going to sink or save America—all I can do is sink or save myself. And love is the key to salvation.


Author: Elaine Bayless 

Image: Instagram @elephantjournal

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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