Here’s a the thing. If you need someone to be in some way “less” than you in order for you to feel good—or even adequate—about yourself, you have a problem. It’s not their problem, it’s yours.
This “pastor” who spewed all over Twitter that we shouldn’t feel bad about the Orlando killings because they were “perverts” is a prime example. If he’s really a pastor, a religious leader, there is no reason for him to say any of that unless he’s just trying to assert superiority. Which is entirely not the point of Christianity, as I understand it. The point is to embrace the commonalities among people, not sort them out into boxes labeled “Preferred Types” and “Types To Be Condemned.” No, he’s just indulging in bolstering a shaky self-image by dumping his own head full of crap on a group he finds personally—
What? Offensive? Incomprehensible? Or simply indifferent to his beliefs.
But, then, how would he know?
People who try to make themselves feel better by denigrating others have always been among us but they have never been so able to broadcast their inadequacies so loudly and regularly and they have found each other and formed support groups. I can’t imagine a gloomier or, frankly, duller forum.
I have found that prejudice rarely survives real knowledge. Actually knowing someone makes it very difficult to shove them into a category and hate “just because” they are a particular “type.” Oh, it’s possible. I have heard all manner of tortured rationalization to continue hating a group while embracing individuals from that group as friends. But that requires, I think, a profound myopia. (And I have to wonder how much of a “friend” they can be.) Generally, once you know someone, I believe it becomes harder and harder to categorically judge and hate them and those like them.
Which is why much of this hatred is based on ignorance.
But a particular kind of ignorance, one based on identity.
After 9/11 we saw people who suggested we learn more about Islam condemned as some species of traitor. How dare you suggest we learn something about this group that just hurt us so badly! How dare you suggest that we can’t programmatically cast all of them into the same box and deal with our pain by blaming them all and hating them! How dare you suggest that more knowledge will benefit us!
It was a spasm of national smallness. “I know who the enemy is, don’t tell me more about him or I might stop hating him.”
Reality is always more complicated.
People who feel squeezed by circumstance, unable often by virtue of their own ignorance to make the decisions necessary to get themselves out of their own cesspools of anger and frustration, seem to contract into themselves and put up a wall to keep out any ideas or facts that might tell them they are in error. They end up hating, many of them, and you see it all over, with signs that are not only wrong-headed but in too many cases suggestive of poor education, illiteracy, and parochialisms that reinforce a siege mentality that grows daily more dense and difficult to penetrate.
No, sir or madam, “they” are not the problem. There are conditions and circumstances that make for a toxic situation and someone has told you that “they” are the cause, the consequence, and the catalyst, all rolled into one, and if we can just be rid of “them” then you will stop being afraid. Whoever told you that lied to you, probably because in so doing they have made themselves feel (falsely) more in control of their situation or they have a power agenda that depends on you buying into the lie. It certainly depends on you never asking deeper questions. Easier to just target and hate. There, the shots have been fired, the bodies are on the floor, “they” have been dealt a blow.
Then why don’t you feel any safer? Why can’t you get past the hate?
Why must we now shift aim to yet another group you know nothing about except that they don’t look or sound or act like you?
Too many people in this country harbor and nurture identity hatreds—we know who we are because we hate those people over there, who are different.
While you’re feeding on that, someone has been stealing your soul to use for purposes you’re too busy hating gays or Muslims or socialists or single parents or blacks or Latinos or Asians or Liberals or Democrats or anyone who knows something you don’t know or has an education or a vocabulary or anyone who reads or supports birth control or feminists or accepts evolution or advocates tolerance or the group of the day to notice.
On some level, along the way, inside, you are one or more of these very things. Hate them, you hate yourself. And if by so doing you define who you are, then you have created for yourself a prison, with bars on the inside, through which to look and resent a world of which you have little understanding. Because you refuse to.
And that pastor? He’s one of the wardens.