politics

Can't we all just get along?

“I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I HATE people like that!” – Tom Lehrer

A
couple of weeks ago, I was at a toddler birthday teaparty (actually, I
was in the next room at the time, drinking a beer and watching college
basketball with the other parents). One of the moms who was there was
telling me, for one reason or another, how her outgoing and blunt
demeanor didn't usually yield a favorable first impression. “People
either love me or they hate me,” she said.

“I can't hate anybody,” I replied.  “It takes too much energy.”

It's
true. Generally speaking, I can't even stay angry at people for very
long, if I know them.  And I tend to give those I don't know the
benefit of the doubt when they run afoul of me; never mistake
incompetence for malice, I always say.  Odds are that, if I had a
non-alchoholic beer or two and some pretzels with George Bush, I'd
probably find something to like about him.

And there's the
rub.  America is full of people who hate other people right
now.    And for the most part, we can thank so-called
religious leaders for that; the lack of tolerance preached in Jesus'
name is such that, had he not risen from his tomb on Easter, he'd
certainly be spinning in it now.

There's the hate that comes
from dissonance–people learn one set of Truths for their whole lives,
and naturally they respond negatively when told those Truths are, in
fact, Lies.  There's no room for debate over fundamental
assumptions about the Underlying Truths of the Universe, especially
when one of those Truths is that all who believe otherwise are Evil.

Then
there's the backlash hate.  There's the hatred that comes from the
righteous anger that the gay community feels because of the intolerance
directed against them in the interest of political gain (thanks to
those Klansmen posing as prophets at CBN and elsewhere); there's the
hatred spawned by anger at the boldfaced lies told by political leaders
daily, which are taken by their followers as gospel.

The whole
tenor of political and religious hate-speech as discourse has spread
into so many other aspects of our lives, too. It seems that our default
response to anything that vaguely threatens our sense of infallibility
is the middle finger.

What ever happened to “Live and let live”?
To “Love thy neighbor”? Why is so much of our lives defined by who we
can't stand? Maybe it's because it's easier to hate people we don't
understand or agree with than it is to actually learn about them as
people and understand their point of view.

It's time for the
whole country to just step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and
get over itself. Get your nose out of Leviticus, and start looking
around at the human condition; judge not lest ye be judged. Agree to
disagree, but find common ground.  And if you can't be nice, as
Bill O'Reilly would say, “SHUT UP!”

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