If you say, “I’m an auto mechanic,” I might respond by saying, “Hmmm… I didn’t know that.”
“Yep. I’m an auto mechanic.”
“Really? Because I’ve never actually seen you fix a car. Do you know how to fix a car?”
“No. But I don’t have to fix a car to be an auto mechanic.”
“You kinda do.”
“No you don’t. I feel like an auto mechanic. Therefore, I’m an auto mechanic.”
You might be tempted to say here that I’m just an idiot who doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about. “Nobody’s dumb enough to say that.”
Fine. Try this on for size? If you say, “I love you,” I might respond by saying, “Hmmm… I didn’t know that.”
“Yep. I love you.”
“Really? Because I’ve never actually seen you do anything loving toward me. Do you know what kinds of things I might consider gestures of love?”
“No. But I don’t have to actually do loving things to love you.”
“You kinda do.”
“No you don’t. I feel love in my heart for you. Therefore, I love you.”
You see the problem there, right? Waxing poetic about love isn’t love. Feeling extra-special warm feelings in your heart toward someone isn’t love. If you want me to agree with you that you love me, I need to see you act in loving ways.
Notice, as I’ve just laid it out, I get to be the one who ultimately decides whether or not your protestations of love for me feel genuine or not. Unquestionably, there are people who are so needy they’ll never be satisfied that another is adequately loving toward them, but in general, action not feeling is a good place to begin when talking about demonstrating love.
But the reverse is also true. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t hate X.” To which I respond, “Hmmm… I didn’t know that.”
“That’s right. I don’t hate X.”
“Really? Because I’ve seen you do things that appear awfully hateful toward X. Do you know what kinds of things X might consider gestures of hatred?”
“No. But I don’t have to avoid doing things X hates not to be a hater of X.”
“You kinda do.”
“No you don’t. I don’t feel any hatred toward X. Therefore, I’m not a hater of X.”
Whereas the first two examples I’ve given might be hard to find people to sign onto, this last argument I find to be very common. Whether you’re talking about racism, or Islamophobia, or xenophobia, or anti-immigration, or homophobia, or transphobia—it would seem that the universal response of the casual hater is, “I don’t hate X, because I don’t feel hatred.”
Even when X comes along and says, “Despite what you say, the fact that you continue to say and do hateful things, or because you don’t ever call out anyone else for saying or doing these things demonstrates to all us Xs that you hate us.”
“No, no, no. I don’t hate anybody.”
“Then stop these things that are hateful toward us.”
“It’s a free country. I can do whatever I want.”
“True. It is, as you say, a free country. You’re free to continue to act hatefully. What you’re not free to do, however, is to do hateful things, but then tell everybody that you’re not hating—that X is just sensitive. Or, “X doesn’t really know my heart.” Or, “X should prove to me that I’m the one with hate in my heart.” Or, “X should just take my word for it.” Or, “Doesn’t X know I teach Sunday School?”
If I’m X, I get to be the final word on what hatred toward me looks like—especially if I’ve been living with it my whole life. Just because you don’t like to see yourself as hateful, doesn’t mean that you’re not, in fact, hateful.
Why do I bring this up? For a lot of reasons. However, a few things have happened over the past week or so that raise the specter of the kind of hatred that, among the haters, dares not speak its name. The president, for instance, released a proposed budget through the Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, that has been described in some places as the most hateful budget anyone has ever seen (here and here). If Mick Mulvaney had stayed awake for a week, trying to figure out a way to screw everybody except rich people, he couldn’t have done a more devastating job than the budget he trotted on last Tuesday evening. Poor people. Sick people. People who depend on roads, bridges, and water pipes. College students. People on disability. Women. Pretty much everybody who doesn’t own a yacht gets jobbed in this budget.
And if that horrific budget weren’t enough, the next day the Congressional Budget Office released its projections of how the Affordable Health Care Act would affect the health insurance coverage of those in the private insurance market, as well as those who have benefitted from the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Turns out, 23 million people are projected to lose their health insurance by 2026. The bulk of the savings derived from refusing to pay for those grasping sick people will go to… the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
“So what?” you may be asking. The reason I find this so appalling is that the same people who argue that these sorts of things are good fiscal policy (If you’re going to make an omelet, after all…), are most often just as quick to say, “Don’t get me wrong. I love poor people. I don’t want to jeopardize healthcare. I think college students need our support. Of course women should have access to healthcare.”
And if you challenge them about the hateful implications of their policy positions, they defend themselves by saying, “I don’t hate any of those people.”
To which I want to respond, “Hmmm… I didn’t know that.”
“That’s right. I don’t hate poor people, sick people, college students, disabled people, or women.”
“Really? Because I’ve seen you do things and advocate for policies that appear awfully hateful toward all those people. Do you know what kinds of things all those people might consider gestures of hatred?”
“No. But I don’t have to avoid doing things that all those people consider hateful not to be considered a hater of them.”
“Yeah, you kinda do.”
“No you don’t. I don’t feel any hatred toward all those people adversely affected by the policies I continually support. Therefore, I don’t hate them.”
But you see, there’s the problem. That’s where the “I-don’t-hate-anyone-defense” falls apart. Just because you don’t feel hatred in your heart, doesn’t mean you’re not acting hatefully toward those you continue to disadvantage. All the warm feelings laid end to end fails to put food in the mouths of hungry children from whom you cut SNAP. It doesn’t matter how loudly you protest your concern for those who are going to lose healthcare, the bill from the oncologist doesn’t take into consideration what you feel. Your insistence about how much you value college education only sounds cruel to kids you’ve just told won’t be able to finance that education. Your love of your own wives and daughters is nice, but that does nothing to offer actual help to the pregnant sixteen year-old whose family will kick her out of the house when they find out.
How is it that you can act hatefully toward people, but not hate them? It’s like saying, “Yeah, I steal stuff from the Speedway, but I’m not a thief.”
You can tell yourself all you want that you don’t hate the people whose lives and families you’re destroying, but that doesn’t make you any less of a bastard to the people you’re screwing over. As long as the people with yachts still like you, though, I guess that’s sufficient consolation.
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