Unchecked Hate Has a Price

After the disturbing news of several more hate crimes against lesbians and gays recently, my friend, Barrett wrote eloquently on her blog about this disturbing hateful trend that seems to be growing in our society. Check out her outstanding words.

I, too, have been deeply impacted by these crimes and it has made me wonder what’s happening. Barrett had a couple of ideas spot on: We should be able to disagree without violence and the hypocrisy and the hatred has to stop. One of the best ways we can do that is to take a stand against hateful rhetoric, wherever we hear it. But too often, our society turns a blind eye when hate and intolerance are broadcast via the airwaves or simply uttered in our presence.

Consider the popular comedian, Daniel Tosh, of Comedy Central. Last month he joked about rape in a standup show. When a woman in the audience objected, was Tosh apologetic? No. He doubled down. He followed with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?”

Seriously, Daniel? Yes, I know, he offered a half-assed Twitter apology. Whatever. Here’s the thing. Daniel’s rape subject matter has a history. Here’s another example of his twisted humor, using his sister in one of his rape jokes. I’m only including his video because you have to hear it to believe it. This guy has issues. Worse, he has a following.

But the thing that makes my blood run cold is that, even with his propensity for this type of cringe-inducing stand-up, he is wildly popular. He should be a pariah, but he’s not. At least he hasn’t been until this last over-the-top rant. The fact that there has been at least some backlash is encouraging, but it’s not nearly enough.

Kids are getting bullied and committing suicide because of their perceived homosexuality or disability. In story after story, not only did other kids join in, but parents, and in some cases teachers, said nothing—or worse fueled the taunting behaviors, through tacit, even active encouragement. Popular pastors are preaching intolerance and hatred. Rush Limbaugh resurrects the old “Feminazi” label and calls a college student a whore for speaking about reproductive rights. Citizens at a political debate boo a gay service member currently serving in Afghanistan. All in plain sight and without any real consequence to the haters. Oh, but the consequence is very real, my friends.

I talk often about the power of touching one person at a time in my life. It’s the best way for me to fight the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that can so easily take over, because it seems so hopeless sometimes. The simplest part is also the hardest because human nature is usually to avoid conflict, and we mostly try to get along with our family and friends. But I suggest to you that we have to speak up. No, not make speeches or wear a t-shirt emblazoned with: I’m a Lesbian! (If you want to, that’s cool, though.) What I’m talking about is refusing to be silent in the face of this misogynist, homophobic, racist intolerance that too often goes unchecked. There are many moments in our daily lives that give us the opportunity to make statements large and small, and every one of them is huge when we do. Whether we boycott companies that bankroll anti-gay measures, calmly tell a male co-worker that his sexist remark is unacceptable, or explain to a child in our life why a cruel joke isn’t funny. It matters.

“Us versus them” is destroying us. Girls are being gang raped, a young lesbian couple is shot, a gay couple savagely beaten, and there was yet another mass shooting last night at a religious temple in Milwaukee. The tragic list goes on, chipping away at our collective spirit. It’s all about the different, the weaker, the other. Somewhere along the way, those who spew intolerance have gained a perverse acceptance, and those who speak for the different have been marginalized, as though they are saying something wrong. That is what we must change. I may be hopelessly naïve, but I believe it’s possible. Hate breeds in ignorance and division from one another enables hate to spread. Divide and conquer is the tactic. Demonize the different. The problem is, that fracturing of our collective whole is what’s taking us all down. Each of us has a role in stopping it.

There’s a saying: We become what we think about. What our society needs is a lot more thinking about our common humanity and a lot less looking for reasons to hate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Peace.

~LM