The antidote to hate is not more hate
I woke up this morning with that headline in my mind. The antidote to hate cannot be more hate because that creates fear and worry. Can hate be fought with more hate? For 10 years, this column has attempted to be an antidote to hate of sorts. What is the opposite of inner peace? I believe it is a simmering unrest, yes, like hate, but mostly unacknowledged, with an undercurrent from trauma and blame, including sadness caused by the pain of life.
The letter to the editor that began this column appeared as a Daily Tidings guest commentary on Christmas Eve 2008, titled, “In this the Season of Love, give yourself the gift of inner peace.” It was my antidote to the hate I felt at the time toward President Bush and the Iraq War debacle raging in the Middle East.
For years I searched for inner peace by looking for peace in the world, but to no one’s surprise, I found that peace is an inside job. The world is neutral. We can see peace or hate, depending on what is in our mind. What do I see, think, how do I feel, and what do I believe to be true? What are my perceptions and are they tainted by years of false training?
For example, in the first grade, I was told by my teacher not to walk around holding the hand of the new little “black” girl who had just come to school. She was the first black person I had ever seen; I thought she was amazingly beautiful. My teacher told me it was inappropriate! She was teaching division, hatred, a false training. And I wasn’t in Alabama but Washington state.
Hate hurts the hater. Hatred causes stress, guilt, division, anger, anxiety, fear, ossification, resentment, obstruction of blood vessels, inflaming the brain, heart, joints, arthritis and other degenerative diseases. Just watch TV ads to see all the remedies offered!
We observe hate and fear “out there,” but the solution is not to add further hate to the equation. I was an antiwar demonstrator but could never hate the other side. We can demonstrate against something with peace in our hearts if we hold a “we are the same” thought, because that IS the truth.
We do have the solutions because they beautifully emerge in our society. Like the answer to homelessness with the Medford and Ashland communities developing solutions with little houses and winter shelters with caring (loving) volunteers. The answer is within each of us.
The person who is driven to kill and shoot at a school or synagogue or mosque is suffering. Find whoever suffers and hold them; include them; invite them to lunch; hold out your hand; or give a pat on the back. Try to connect even with a smile because he/she is hurting, feeling rejected and full of a resentment that will ultimately explode until they obtain a gun to kill someone or maybe themselves.
What is the antidote for this suffering that I can offer? I don’t always give money to people asking at Shop’n Kart, but I do give a smile or a wave. Everyone is hurting at some level, not just the homeless. We have the right response within if we ask, and let it arise.
We have been programmed or “carefully taught,” like the song in the movie “South Pacific”: “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made or people whose skin is a different shade; you’ve got to be carefully taught.” If we observe our judgments they are probably from a past learning but we have the power to no longer accept, believe or live by them.
We have answers for the antidote. For example, Rabbi David Zaslow’s congregation at the Havurah visited the Masjid Al Tawheed mosque in Talent and visa versa. I know the United Congregational Church of Christ has done the same. Jewish and Christian congregations cross pollinate as well. Small gatherings are not intimidating. I’ve seen posters for many community gathering opportunities. We need to meet, engage, enlighten and demonstrate acceptance and inclusion for everyone in all the Rogue Valley communities.
Rosebud Media owner Steven Saslow’s May 5 editorial in the Mail Tribune, “If we’re ever gonna survive,” called for a Band-Aid to violence and asked the community to start a dialogue and to take “our heads out of the proverbial sand.” What are your ideas? Let’s put our hearts and heads together, because we have the answers within us. “Love is stronger than war because it heals.” Send me your ideas and I’ll publish them in a column soon!
Sally McKirgan facilitates the Inner Peace column. Send ideas for 600 -to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to firstname.lastname@example.org.