Letter to the editor: Retiring the word ‘hate’ could be beneficial to all

Many of us (myself very much included) use the word “hate” unfortunately often for all sorts of inconsequential and every day consequential things: eg. “I hate getting up at 5 AM; I hate shrimp; I hate how this looks on me; I hate it when people are rude.” But then this toxic term is also used in regard to all sorts of monumentally crucial issues. I recall a satirical bumper sticker one saw occasionally maybe thirty years ago: “I hate bigots.” I’m not certain everyone got the joke.

Retiring use of the word “hate” completely could be extraordinarily helpful, especially in situations when it’s used ignorantly and so dangerously in mis-labelling something as “hate speech” in regard to an announced event about to occur within a community, as appears to have been the case about a certain talk that occurred at Vergennes High School recently.

Interestingly, the word as adjective appears to be more in use by liberals and progressives (of which I suppose I am one, given the increasingly meaningless categorizations we use) than it is by conservative folks across the spectrum. Not that there’s less flip hostility — there’s plenty of that to go around, on both sides of the ugly fence that has sprung up in this country.

Wendell Berry (who, at the age of 89, remains the same extremely radical and conservative man — in the best senses of both words — that he has always been) wrote recently that these days “liberals” seem to consider “freedom” to be primarily relevant to all issues having to do with sexuality and gender whereas for “conservatives” “freedom” has mostly to do with being free of government/institutional interference or even influence in any form whatsoever. Agree with that or not, it’s interesting to think about.

Much of the so-called left-wing is bending over backward to be politically correct to the extent that I’m sometimes reminded of a brilliant thought I long ago heard from (a very progressive) friend: “It’s possible to be so open-minded your brains fall out.” I’m not certain what the so-called right-wing version of this affliction is, perhaps it’s the insistence that all criticism, judicial investigation, ethical considerations regarding the actions of a former president are solely politically motivated and therefore to be ignored at best and at worst consigned to the growing bag of conspiracy theories. I’d need someone who’s conservative but doesn’t go toward that kind of thinking to tell me.

A willingness to embrace complex realities and wrestle and work with them seems a terrible thing to abandon (if we ever had it) in a “free” country. And, with this, real, deep kindness (if we ever had it) appears to be fleeing as well. Not the glib emoji and texting abbreviation versions: they’re proliferating more successfully than deer ticks. 

How difficult, really, would it be to actually write “I like that!! Thank you” or “That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. Thank you!” or “I agree with you completely” or “thanks for sending me this” or “My prayers are with you in every way possible” or “I’m so sorry you had to go through that” or “I love you?”

Marianne Lust


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