Some of the best father to son life lessons are accomplished more with subtlety rather than screaming or violence.
All I said was, “I hate the Oakland Raiders.”
I thought my fanatic football fan father would totally agree. They were the arch rival to our favorite team. I knew a lot of kids at school hated them too. When playing the Raiders, my favorite team basically had to keep their helmets buckled another heads on a swivel to avoid cheap shots.
His response was, “Really?”
“Yes I hate them. I always have.”
“Do you know what the word hate means?”
“Of course, it means I really do not like this football team.”
“Hate is a stronger word than that, it should not be used lightly. Or with any kind of a sports team. It is just sports — teams compete,” he explained, and went back to watching the game.
By expressing my strong dislike, I was essentially correct among standard definitions. However, I grabbed the dictionary off the shelf and read that it also includes descriptions like “extreme aversion” to something or someone.
The word extreme hung with me along after.
And that was the “aha moment” he was hoping would sink in. I was certainly not converted to cheering for the dread silver and black, the most penalized, push the limits of sportsmanship Oakland Raiders. I still do not like or appreciate that football club, but the point was made, I didn’t hate them.
The real lesson kicked in after that. Who or what did I really, truly hate?
There were plenty of my fellow high school students that I was sure I hated. But when I examined our various disagreements, it was all over silly stuff. Kids in different clicks, or looked at me weird or thought they were somehow better than me, they all made the list.
I realized it took a lot of mental energy to actively hate someone. I had to constantly reinforce those extreme feelings and rationalize my intense return stares or the throwing elbows or shoulders in the hallway between classes. All of it turned out to be a waste of time.
Once I examined each situation, I understood I really didn’t hate anyone at the school. I’m human, there were still some folks on the list who are never getting invited over for a barbecue, but there was no one horrific enough to earn my permanent, extreme dislike. By the time I graduated, the word hate evolved quite a bit for me.
As the rest of the modern world turns, some other humans need to examine the true meaning of hate.
The current list kicks off with political differences, Democrats hate Republicans, Republicans hate Democrats, continues through specific theological differences, legal questions, race, gender and sexual orientation. To name a few.
Of course, not everyone in each group hates everyone from the other, but when one tunes into media, social media and other mass communication elements, the haters appear to dominate the bandwidth.
Which leads to the latest horror show in Orlando, Florida where a hateful human massacred at least 50 other humans. One has to be hateful and maybe a little insane to hurt so many on his way out of this world.
Here is the part of this story where I’m usually supposed to try to solve or soothe the crisis in which we find ourselves. Or where I scratch my head and wonder how such horrible feelings exist.
I know why. Ignorance.
It is that simple. My father called me out on the improper utilization of the word hate. I was ignorant in my application of the term. People who hate all gay men and women are flat out ignorant. People who hate all Muslims because of the action of a fraction of that faith are flat out ignorant.
I understand the argument against my position. I know there are many very intelligent people who hate on all sides of these issues. But I didn’t say anyone here was dumb. My claim is specifically that hate is fueled by ignorance. A lack of knowledge or education is the simplest way to explain the term.
For example, one has to completely know — absolutely know a substantial number of gay humans or Muslim humans to understand all humans are all unique individuals. We love to team up and group think, but when push comes to shove, each person has a different perception and approach to each life scenario. But lumping people in “for or against” columns generates an uninformed extreme dislike of the perceived opposition.
The point being, those who are somehow happy their viewpoint was ‘proven’ that all Muslims are bad, are flat out ignorant about the millions of non-terrorist Muslims. The people who judged gay people as somehow deserving the horrors of being killed as loving, caring human beings at a night club, are flat out ignorant.
Hate or extreme hate, ignorance and the misery that follows should not be viewed lightly. If we are to find meaning while we are here, this frightening lack of knowledge about one another needs to be addressed.
Until then, buckle up and keep your head on a swivel.