>> Friday, November 11, 2011
I have never entirely understood hatred. I've studied it because lackluster villains induce comas not excitement. And because it confounds me frequently; the kind of thinking behind the most common types of hatred escapes me, the kind of hatred that is focused on what one is, rather than who.
Let me be clear, when I talk about "what one is," I'm talking about immutable and choice-driven aspects of a person that frequently engender a reaction, a judgement, in people that has nothing to do with actual characteristic. Male. Female. Asian. Black. Latino. Blonde. Short. Jewish. Christian. Athiest. Muslim. Tattooed. Old. Young. Tall. Gay. Straight. Rich. Poor. Tax collector. If you think any of these aspects gives you insight into the personality, the nuances of a person when you know nothing more about them than one of these aspects, you are a fool.
Which brings up the second kind of "what one is" that I prefer to think of as "who one is." Those are those aspects of one's personality as indicated by your behavior, the way you act (when people are and aren't looking) that determine who you really are as a person. Some are qualities, like being kind or tolerant or irascible or short-tempered. Some are "what's" determined by key things someone's done like spree sniper, rapist, serial killer. I'm not saying I know enough about someone just because he's a serial killer, mind you, that I can explain all his nuances, but I know enough to feel comfortable taking whatever steps necessary to keep him off the streets. But it's a different kind of what, one he's earned, unlike the others, because taking the lives of others for your own pleasure makes a pretty strong statement about what kind of person you are. You've demonstrated who you are. Another quick example. Being sexually attracted to children doesn't make you a monster; using children sexually, including contributing to demand for child pornography, does.
I hope that's clear enough for my purposes. Although I'm not a big hater, I can see hating people for what they've done, the who they are. But I have never understood, never embraced, hating anyone for what he or she is.
And that includes people who happen to be gay. Historically, homosexual folks have certainly seen their share of hatred and then some. Even in the Bible, they're treated pretty harshly (presumably one of the reasons Sodom bought it back then, though I've always wondered about Lot, considered a "good man" enough to be saved who offered his two virgin daughters to the slavering crowd of would be buggerers, apparently, hanging about his stoop. He did so to protect his guests, but I have to say, the definition of "good man" is just a bit off my own. But I digress...)
Actually, a huge portion of that antipathy can be traced to Abrahamian religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as many primitive and cultures with other religions accept or ignore homosexuality without issue or even considered it perfectly natural. And, why not, it happens in nature, too. In cultures where it's prohibited, homosexuals have been ostracized, branded, killed out of hand, exiled, castrated, executed in particularly heinous ways, imprisoned, excommunicated, called sinners and generally considered "scum." The fear and vitriole associated with this particular crime/sin is often extreme and certainly seems so (to me, at least) today when so many other prejudices are looking more and more foolish and outdated.
I think Shakespeare touched on one reason. People like to look down on people who are different. Studies have been done to see how readily children will ostracize a particular physical trait (eye color, in the case I read) and they responded with little prompting to single "different" people out. History certainly provides plenty of evidence of people mistreating other people based on color or religion or ancestry or geographical location, so I think it would be foolish to dismiss that explanation out of hand.
And it is easy to condemn someone for a trait one will never have oneself. Whites looking down on blacks. Nazis looking down on Jews. Conquistadors looking down on heathens. Etc. The part that's challenging for me on that, though, is that most of those big prejudices were deliberately set up by people wanting to control others with patriotism, hatred and fear. There was a perceived gain by doing so.
Beliefs about the superiority of different skin tone and having a "true" religion allowed people to justify displacing and/or enslaving "heathens." Natives on two continents were exterminated or pushed aside while natives of another continent were forcibly brought in as slaves. Religious and racial superiority were used to justify such actions. Human nature, where one thinks one will feel better about oneself by thinking another is "lesser," played into that nicely and is the crux, I think, for this kind of hatred. Ironically, it doesn't work and, frequently the hatred goes on an ever increasing spiral to find more to hate because hating others does actually make you feel good. Or, at least, I've never actually seen a happy hater.
With all of the ME3 religions (I'm calling them that because I hate typing out Christianity, Judaism and Islam every time and they were all started in the Middle East) condemning sodomy, homosexuality is a convenient thing, especially if you consider sexual orientation strictly voluntary, to hate in someone else especially if you feel yourself completely innocent of that particular failing, with never a possibility of "falling" to it.
But I don't think that's all. Part of the mechanism for instilling hatred against those that are different is instilling fear. Nazis called out that Jews were hoarding money while the regular Germans suffered with war reparations. Others insist letting black people into your neighborhood will contribute to crime and send property values spiraling down. With gays, there are several fears: fears that accepting homosexuality will pressure children into adopting it against their will and the fear, particularly with gay men, that gays are a rape risk for straight men and children.
The first fear seems demonstrably untrue, given that heterosexuals (many of them, not all) have been force-feeding that the only healthy romantic relationship is a heterosexual relationship for generations - and we still have gay people. Some of them might be in heterosexual relationship and subsequently unhappy, but we haven't fundamentally changed them.
As for the latter, I'm sure there have been gay rapists and pedophiles, but being gay makes you one no more than being a priest does. Rapists are about imposing power and domination over someone else which means gender is probably not an issue other than a woman is frequently perceived to be an easier target. If serial killers are any indication, the same goes for pedophiles (When reading about serial killers over the past century, I noticed that those that were picky about gender either went for (a) prostitutes - female or (b) vagrants - male. Those that wanted an easy target and didn't care about gender went for children. Sad but consistent). But reality isn't what we're talking about here; it's perception and that perception of gays being more dangerous to children, to "normal" people feeds the hatred, in my opinion.
In my opinion, it's the fear factor that make people who ordinarily would never treat another person poorly turn a blind eye to much of the discrimination that goes against gays and lesbians now.
But, I speculate that the worst, the most vocal and unyielding in their hatred, the ones who seem driven to share and spread the poisonous litany against homosexuality with a rabid fervor are those who aren't so secure, are the ones who have perhaps struggled against their own inclinations. Such individuals might be so vehement either because they need their hatred to make themselves "feel better" despite their embarrassing urges (since they aren't acting on them) or they scream the loudest in the hopes to makes sure no one ever suspects them of being gay. I don't think it's a coincidence many of the most vehement politicians, when it comes to slamming the doors on gays, often get caught up in homosexual scandals.
Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind when it came to explaining it, but I doubt they're exhaustive. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts including refutations of my own cogitation. The better I understand hate, the better I can fight it, in fiction and in real life.