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October 29, 2018


If I hate those who hate others do I hate myself?

When a disturbed person killed little children and their protectors in Newtown, Connecticut I was crushed by the inhumanity, but on its heals of that body blow was my more typical response: I was disappointed that Alan Lanza had killed himself: I had hoped some one could make him suffer commensurate with the hurt he laid on so many.

The desire for retribution is great within me these days, and us as a culture I suspect.

The latest insanity at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg made me fully angry, not sad, let alone praying for lunatic Robert Bowers who acted with a blood lust that defies any understanding.

I want to hurt those who hurt. That instant violent desire makes me essentially akin to the evil that is done. It is a conundrum of inadequacy that defies condoning. I am wrong, but my knowing it only prevents the vile actions of those I hate – the hatred is still there, and natural – to me, anyway.

I felt good when Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison, then shuddered at my satisfaction. Many states murder those who murder to, in theory, stop others from murdering. But to me, and I think most, retribution, expressing revenge to the violence done seems to be its own justification.

That is deeply sad. The lack of connecting my left lobe of reason to my right lobe of passion is beyond troubling, it is exquisitely human. I hoped for a split second that I had ended someone’s existence during football practice in 1972. For about .03 seconds. I was then shocked at that flash of hate, and then felt the sharp pain of both the hit I laid on the person who pissed me off, and then the hard ground as I immediately flew onto it.

The hard ground of my humanity when insane acts of indescribable cruelty undermine any sense of decency, acceptance, or just benign loathing is disturbing to me. The reaction of hate by hating the hater is completely normal, and totally wrong.

But I feel it. I assume you do too. I sort of understand it, unlike the completely absurd red-dyed hair topped James Holmes who soullessly shot scores, often to death, in a Colorado movie theater. I wanted, I want, him stoned to death, or casually shot just enough to extend death for hours: I want him to suffer because he broke the rule of love that makes my life whole and reasonable to me.

And I am fully wrong to feel that way.

Humans, or at least I, want to express the hate I feel, but know is wrong. It is wrong not because I might be punished for it – someone might exact revenge on me for my retribution.

It is wrong to hate because I am loved.

It all my confused selfish, asinine narcissistic ego bloat and entitlement, not to mention carefree self indulgence and innumerable acts of feel-good acting out, He who made me still loves me. Completely. Even when I hate myself. Which I do with every hateful reaction to hate that seems to overwhelm God’s love.

The guns, the insanity, the circumstances, even the politics are ripe for attempts at control to suppress the hideous outcomes. That attempt at control is necessary. But it is futile on one level.

The hate, whether expressed with an assault weapon or righteous indignation is immune to our understanding, let alone cure. We can sacrifice just about anything to extend the lives of those we do not know. Ask a veteran. But just beneath that is the rage that is triggered by things we do not understand.

I am left with dwelling in the place that I do not understand either, but which saves me from myself, the love of a God that is ever present and never adequate to cure our worst selves.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Janice Gruendel permalink
    October 29, 2018 12:19 pm

    I commend to you Season 7, Episode 8, the lat 15 minutes, of the West Wing.  We had a shooting today at the Mecklenburg County high school in the town just below Charlotte. We have a county school system.  On top of the pipe bombs and the massacre at the synagogue, my heart is so hurting.   I was walking at the gym listening to the stirring end of this episode of West Wing when I got an email from my friend who son was in the school.  They sent the kids back to class, before wisdom or caring or compassion overtook them and they send the kids home…..     We shall see how they choose to talk about this all.

    Dr. Janice M. GruendelSenior Fellow, Institute for Child SuccessResearch Professor, UNC CharlotteFellow, Zigler Center at Yale University(c)

  2. October 29, 2018 12:50 pm

    I remember this vividly. The hate for Adam. The insistence that 26 people died that day. The having to remind people over and over and over that 27 people had died. And when Trinity had the memorial service, helping to light the candles, asking Luk if we could please Please? light 27 candles? And yes, of course. Because 27 people had died. We don’t know what drove him to do such horrible acts. His DNA was sequenced in this very building I am sitting in right now. It was studied, to see if it was his very DNA that drove him to such desperation. But it was found to be the same as yours. Or mine.
    We don’t know what drives people to do what they do.
    We know that people learn what they are taught.
    We hope they learn , also, sometimes, what not to do with that knowledge.

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