I do not understand hate, cannot comprehend the seductive power of hatred that could lead a person to commit such violence.
Do I feel anger? Yes. Unfortunately, all the time. I have a temper that surges in such an intoxicating manner that it’s easy to slip into the adrenaline rush of fury and just want to be angry and rejoice in the surge of fury.
But hatred? Malevolent, virulent animosity that would lead one to kill?
I cannot comprehend this. And I worry that in my lack of comprehension I will sometimes slip into a delusion of rosy-colored glasses that all is well and that everything is beautiful and grand and that nothing bad can really happen. Because bad things happen all the time and in writing this last sentence, I see how I apply a euphemism to suppress my sadness at the recent events in the world.
The shooting in Charleston.
The deaths of African-American men at the hands of the police.
Violence that just seems to beget more violence.
I am reading in the Book of Jeremiah about the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem and I read about how the people were just turning on one another. Right now, the movie The Book Thief is playing on television and they are showing re-enacted scenes of book burning with a man preaching about the intended destruction of the Jews.
The destruction of art. The destruction of literature. A cultural legacy tossed into a furnace.
A square turned on its corner, four sides slightly broken…their angles turned outwards into a spiral, blades that keep on turning. A turbine. A mill…crushing everything. Turning everything into a fine powder.
I believe in love. I believe in goodness and compassion and healing. I believe in construction.
But I am not going to say that I am happily ensconced within the illusion that nothing bad will happen in my world. When I was seven, I walked the memorialized paths of Dachau.
When I was seventeen, my mother and I were driving down a side street in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and a man walked out into the center of the street, blocking our path, and threw out his fist at us, his middle finger raised. His face was lined with hatred. We had done nothing wrong. We had broken no traffic rules. But our license plate had three letters on it which must have caused him to see nothing but an enemy.
In the sleepy German cow-town where my parents live, their car has been vandalized not once, not twice, but at least three times. They stopped repairing it because the vandalism was only going to be repeated. It’s been broken into. In America, they have never experienced these problems because they blend in.
In Germany, their Americanized-German marks them as foreigners, and my parents have been deliberately ignored and mis-treated in restaurants. They don’t complain. They don’t raise their voices and demand to talk to the manager. They might mutter under their breaths and walk out the doors after paying their bills and leaving a tip.
Do I know what it means to be discriminated against? Mildly. I do not know the skin-tearing force of fire hoses. Do not know the fear of walking out of my own door and trying to lead a normal life because the color of my skin has branded me as….what? Unworthy? Unlikable?
I have dealt with students who hated me because I was “white” (sorry, but I really do hate that description. In literary symbolism, white is considered pure and good whereas black is evil and deadly. I don’t want to be associated with that those kinds of concepts. I make mistakes. I hurt people. I am a sinner and seek forgiveness). These students had been raised to see white people in authority as likely to hate anyone who does not look like them.
But I will still not say that I know what it means to be discriminated against. My experiences are limited and within vacuums of elapsed time so that the power of those memories are stripped and frayed and lost in the nuances of the surrounding joyful memories.
I have a former student who is literally afraid. Because he has a darker complexion. Because he has both the x and y chromosomes. He is a lovely gentleman whom, seven years ago, graduated and moved to another part of the country so that he could escape the problems of the area in which he was living. Now, seven years later, he sees that the hatred we thought dead forty or more years in the past is still there, just bleached out and hidden under the fabric of different ways of thinking.
I do not understand hate. I accept that it is there. I acknowledge its existence. But I will not indulge in it. I will continue to fight hatred wherever I go, which is ironic that I am going to fight hatred. But fighting doesn’t always to be within the context of violence. I have a voice. I know how to speak. I know how to write. I will do everything in my power to speak out, to vocalize, to do something more than just sit in my recliner and enjoy the comforts of the status-quo. Because if the recent status-quo is an endorsement of hatred, of violence against others due to….a disagreement in ideology? a dislike of skin color? a dislike of how one loves another? Then it’s time for the status-quo to change. And I’ve already written about how change is not such a bad thing.
Poem for the day: I wrote this from the perspective of my main character from my novel, titled at this time The Pear Tree House.
Beth’s Elegy for Calder
We stared down walls that could never be broken
To do so
Would be to spill out the bones that are carefully built into the mortar
Arranged in patterns that even the mice won’t disturb
We stare over bricks, look for one another
Seek out the other so that we can be reassured of our secrets
Of all the words we cannot speak but always pass back
And forth like tiny notes tucked in the palms of our hands.
We know her name though I never say it.
We know her last resting place before she tumbled out of our history
And hid her fate in the moss on a slippery log
Or in the rocks of the water
Or the paths that led into the mountains and away
From a house perched on cinder blocks.
She is in every three parts of the atoms that orbit
One another in the bricks we stacked
One by one
Next to each other
On top of each other
A solemn mausoleum of a girl you wanted to love
A girl I wanted to disappear
And now, we never speak, never talk of trees
That we used to climb, no longer share the stories
Of stars that spin over our heads
Or dream of the adventures of a creek that slips
Past your house and into a river
That melts the jagged rocks into small pebbles
And eventually into a fine sand that can hurt no one.