"What can men do against such reckless hate?" asks Theoden, King.
Aragorn hesitates, his whole life has been a struggle against just such a hate, but then he replies, clear and composed: "Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them."
This scene comes from Peter Jackson's deft film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, during the Battle of Helms Deep. Those who know the context will realize that, though this battle has stretched the defenders to the breaking point and wrought death and destruction upon the people of Rohan, this statement marks the turning of the tide. Aragorn and Theoden ride forth with the few remaining warriors left to them, charging through the ranks of the Uruk-Hai assault force, and, once they have exited the confines of the fortress they have been defending all night, they see a most welcoming sight: Gandalf, Eomer, and two thousand cavalry of the Rohirrim on the horizon ready to charge into the fray and rout the invaders.
This is, of course, a fictional example, but one that I always come back to as an ideal. Aragorn and Theoden have known through the night just how tenuous their position is, and yet they stood at the ready to defend the innocent against a "reckless hate". In the story, they are saved by the timely intervention of a powerful good, but I think this is not so impossible in real life.
I fundamentally believe that humanity is innately good, but I also accept the teachings of my faith that we have fallen from perfect grace and the world along with us. I would like to believe that all people are usually good, but I would be lying if I said that the evidence truly supported such a statement.
However, I do believe that to simply excuse hatred is unacceptable. To sit back and allow "bad things" to happen is unconscionable. To this end, I would like to declare a war on hatred.
First, though, let me clarify my relationship with the word hate and the emotion of hatred. I cannot state strongly enough how much I dislike the word "hate". I feel it is overused to denote a strong dislike or an aversion to something, but that this is a casual misuse of a deadly serious word. In the New Testament (which is the Scripture of my faith), Christ likens hatred to murder, and states that actions leading out of hatred (He uses the example of calling one's brother "raqqa", akin to calling them a mindless beast) are "murder of the heart". Clearly, this is meant to indicate just how strong an emotion hate truly is. Therefore we must be careful in how we use the term: I would not even say that I "hate the word hate", for I think that is too strong of a saying.
Hatred is hard to control, once one starts to feel it in their heart and allows it to continue, it can easily escalate, first to irritability in communicating with the object of their hate, then verbal abuse, and quickly more dangerous actions and feelings. Eventually, sustained hatred breeds disdain and disgust, and begins to dehumanize the other in attempt to justify itself. Once a dehumanizing process has started, abuse of all kinds are not a far stretch.
One can see this in the political process in my home country of the United States. We have become so polarized to each other, that we have begun the process of dehumanizing our opponents and their leaders. We conflate their flaws with an intent to harm, and we begin creating hateful jokes, and rhetoric full of brinkmanship. We have become so far removed from each other, that compromise seems impossible and even the best intentioned leaders find it impossible to accomplish anything of significance. I'll admit, that during the Presidency of George W. Bush, I indulged in disdainful jokes as much as any, but now I find them so repulsive, that I hesitate to take part in such crass critique of the very much more difficult administration that I now find myself under. Let this not be a dialectic against any one man or group, though, let us return to the matter at hand.
If I can convince you of nothing else, let it be that hatred is insidious and all too easily tolerated these days; this must not be allowed. Hatred breeds more hatred, which leads to dehumanization of the other, and inevitably creates an environment in which violence is all too easily justified. This cannot be allowed to happen. We must reject hatred in all its forms. We must eradicate it mercilessly, judiciously, and thoroughly, as much from our own hearts as from others'.
This is an important point: it is not enough to fight the hatred we see in others, we must fight it within ourselves. If we fight violence with violence, all we do is breed more violence; the same is true with hatred. We must remain firm that hate is unacceptable, but work to confront it in the most loving way possible. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated: "hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
I constantly struggle with this myself. As I said earlier, I don't like to say that I hate hatred, but it does create a violent reaction within me, which oftentimes leads to an overwrought response. Herein, we must be careful that, in trying to correct hateful thoughts or actions, we don't accidentally encourage them by being too adversarial or confrontational. As warriors against hatred, we must walk a tight line, for we walk along the edge of a knife, and if we stray just a little, we will fall.
I am no General Patton, no Omar Bradley or Dwight Eisenhower. I make no pretensions to having a grand strategy to fight hatred, but I do intend to try. Together we can rally together, make guerilla warfare against the forces of a dark and uncompromising view of the world. I will be with you, every step of the way, constantly vigilant for the hatred in my own heart and in the heart of my brothers, constantly confronting all forms of hatred around me.
Will you do the same?