August 6, 2019 | Reading Time: < 1 minute

The problem with ‘hate’

Whenever there’s a massacre, we heard various and sundry uses of “hate.” Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso, said there’s a “hate epidemic.” “In this country, we have a gun violence epidemic but we also have a hate epidemic. Until we deal with that hate and until we confront the weak gun laws that we…

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Whenever there’s a massacre, we heard various and sundry uses of “hate.”

Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso, said there’s a “hate epidemic.”

“In this country, we have a gun violence epidemic but we also have a hate epidemic. Until we deal with that hate and until we confront the weak gun laws that we have, we’ll keep seeing this. The families in this community deserve better. Families in every community deserve better.

I think she’s right, but “hate” can get turned around in relativist fashion. If you stand for women’s rights, don’t you also hate men? Of course you don’t, but that’s what conservatives say, and if they say liberals hate them, a nihilist press will often believe them, and if a nihilist press believes them, then it’s so.

But that’s not the only problem I have with “hate.” It doesn’t capture the complexity of evil.

As I wrote late last year:

When people defend the Confederate flag, saying it’s not a symbol of hate, there’s something to that. You don’t have to hate people in order to see them as less than human. You don’t have to hate people to create systems designed to humiliate them, cheat them, and rob them of their humanity. Slavery wasn’t built on hate. Jim Crow wasn’t built on hate. Institutional racism isn’t built on hate. All were and are built on asymmetries of power and on seeing the Other as undeserving of justice.

Lastly, hate crimes are only meaningful if there’s a motive—i.e., the shooter set out to kill people because they are fill-in-the-blank. If there’s no motive, then no hate crime. That seems to me wholly inadequate when faced with the reality of mass murderers wanting to kill for the thrill of it. —JS

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

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