Shannon Hale

Life is short, so live extra lives. Read books.

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On hate

Thanks so much for the discussion the last two posts. As I said, it has disturbed me over the last few years how common, acceptable, and often admirable it’s become to hate fans of Twilight and its creator. But this is just one spark in a much bigger sky.

October was devoted to bullying awareness. We know bullying is epidemic and so damaging. My heart breaks hearing news story after news story of children as young as 12 committing suicide because of bullying. And those who were the bullies are victims now too, children who should have known better but maybe didn’t, and now they are forever changed by driving someone to take their own life. How much do you just want to reach out right now and hug every child who feels alone, who is harassed at school for looking or acting different, who honestly feels that no one could ever love her or him?

It was interesting to contemplate the bullying epidemic during a month leading up to a major election. On one side, people were speaking out against bullying, trying to bring awareness to kids of everyone’s humanity and encouraging kindness. And on the other side, people were ranting and raging and spewing hate against the other political party.

Like many of you, I have close friends, family, and acquaintances that are both fervent Republicans and fervent Democrats. And during this election I had the chance to hear them both speak about the other side. I heard words like “hate” and “evil” and “idiots.” I watched people either not listen to the other side at all or listen only to pick through their words for proof of their evilness and idiocy. I heard adults speak degradingly about other human beings as if those with different opinions didn’t deserve to live. And speak like that in front of their children.

I wonder about the bullies. I wonder what their parents are like at home.

And so I keep coming back to the conclusion that it’s not okay to hate anyone. Not even a politician who you believe is trying to take away your civil rights or your job. Not someone whose religion offends you or who deems your sacred religion as ridiculous. Not the referee at a sports game who made a bad call. Not the troll online who writes profane and hurtful comments. Not anyone who disagrees with us or hurts us. We know that hate actually physically hurts the hater. It’s bad for the health. But it’s so noxious it spreads out from us too. Children watch and listen.

By hating someone or a group of someones we’re denying them humanity. We’re stating that there are people in this world who don’t deserve respect. That life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only apply to those who agree with us. By hating anyone (even those we believe deserve it), adults are showing children that it’s okay to hate some people. That politician. That extreme liberal/conservative group. That religion. That race. That kid in class who smells like urine. That girl who clearly never washes her hair because her family lives in their car. That boy who seems gay and has no friends. That kid who is autistic and always says the wrong thing. That Other Person who is not me, so different than me I don’t have to try to empathize. I don’t have to work to understand. I can just nix them from the human race. I can hate.

I believe that the majority of people are really, really wonderful and good and kind. I believe that most of us never consciously hate anyone. It’s that tiny invisible hate, the kind that seems not only acceptable but even admirable, that’s really insidious. The hate disguised as Standing Up For Myself or Others or A Better Country. As my children get older, I’m trying to be more aware of how I talk about other people. I’ve tried to eliminate “hate” from my vocabulary altogether. I hope I never do or say anything that tells my kids it’s okay to hate some people. One of the best things I can hope for them is that they grow up without the burden of being a bully. That they will never make another child cry.

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