Friday Philosophy: Hatred

I gave myself an assignment on Tuesday.  I decided I needed to write about one of those topics I have the hardest time with.  I assigned myself the the topic of Hate.  I’ve also had difficulty writing about Love.

Go figure.

Once upon a time I appeared in an anti-hate commercial, part of the the Hate Free Zones campaign sponsored by the Arkansas Progressive Network back in the  late 90s.

My partner (at the time) and were seen walking along the riverfront in Little Rock, an interracial lesbian couple, one of us transsexual and the other bisexual.  The commercial displayed all sorts of human targets of hate, set to the music of INXS’ Mediate.  The final video scenes showed the burned out station wagon at the scene of slaying of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

I was asked to participate on a panel to discuss hatred and how it affected the community.  There I was on the dais.  There was a pastor from a local church and the head of the Arkansas ACLU at the time and a PFLAG representative.  We were each asked to…or was it allowed to…give a brief introduction.  I went last.  I gave the obvious spontaneous response:  

Hi.  I’m Robyn Serven…and it appears I am here to represent the targets of hate.

I then read the following prepared piece.

I am a human being.

When I was a child, I was a crybaby.  I was very sensitive to personal slights, perhaps overly so, but that depends on one’s point of view.  Did I deserve to be punished for that?  Because punishment is what happens  when adults stand by and let some kids pick on other kids because “it is for their own good,” justifying their inaction by saying, “Boys will be boys.”  Some children enjoy the role of bully too much for us to stand by and do nothing.  Surely the school-shootings in the past few years have taught us that.  But more important, no child deserves to be picked on because they are emotional.  The world needs sensitive people.  Why do we allow that to be stomped out of children?  Being sensitive is a good thing.  For that matter, no child deserves to be picked on for any reason, like that they wear glasses or are large or small.  Children should be safe from torture at the hands of bullies.  The safety of our children should be everyone’s concern.  Safety is a basic human right.

I am a human being.

I am a teacher.  I have chosen to spend my life trying to improve the minds of young adults.  That task is made a lot more difficult when some of them are told that they aren’t worth as much as the others, that their value to society is determined by the color of their skin or their cultural heritage or their gender or their sexual orientation or their size or their social or economic status or anything other than how they can develop their minds and their individual talents and how thoroughly they carry out their obligations.  Judging them on any other basis is unfair.  And I believe that fairness is a basic human value.

I am a human being.

I am a PFLAG parent.  My daughter will be 30 years old later this year.  When she was eighteen, she told us she was a lesbian.  I can’t for the life of me understand any brand of family value that would result in me discarding children because they are lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender.  I can’t imagine anything that my daughter could do or say that would cause me to cease loving her, especially not that she loves someone.  I will always want her to be happy.  I will always want what is best for her.  My kid was a good kid then and is a terrific person now.  I feel very protective toward her.  Anyone who has bad things to say about her for any reason needs to back off.  Anyone who thinks that she deserves a lesser life than anyone else is going to have a battle on their hands.  I stand up for my child.  And that’s what I call the true value of family.  

I am a human being.

I am a transsexual woman.  I call myself a woman because we’re only allowed two choices and I have rejected the other one.  Six and a half years ago, I began my own personal odyssey in search of personal fulfilment, which happened to include ceasing to live my life in the role of a man. I did what I thought was best for me.  I took control of my life.  I can’t imagine trying to tell anyone else how to live their life, but I encountered a whole bunch of people, people who had never met me, who decided that how I lived my life was very much their concern.  And without even talking to me to find out who I was or how I viewed life, many of them summarily declassified me as a human being.  I became a thing.  I was something to be shunned, an evil that needed to be eradicated, a shameful blotch on the face of humanity.  I was the subject of vicious lies.  People who were nice to me became the subject of rumors.  People looked through me or talked about me like I wasn’t even there. I was isolated from any sense of community.  Some people thought I should lose my job; it didn’t matter to them how good I was at it.  One church thought I could be shamed out of town and so orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to the local newspaper.  Fortunately, I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I have done.  In a land which proclaims freedom of religion, morality doesn’t come from just one source, and I’ve been very true to my moral and ethical standards (Thank you very much!).  I’m proud of who I am and what I have done in this life.  Humans need to be proud of who they are.  And they deserve the right to change, to improve themselves in any way that they deem right for themselves.  All people deserve the right to decide just who they are as individuals.  That’s just a basic part of being human.    

I am a human being.

I call myself gender-variant.  I live on what some people believe is the rigid dividing line between the classes of men and women.  From this perspective, sexual orientation becomes rather meaningless.  If I were attracted to men, I’d be called a fag.  Since I’m attracted to women, I’m called a dyke.  The truth of the matter is that I’m just different.  If someone wants to claim a gender label, then it’s fine with me, but I don’t see why it is necessary for anyone to claim a gender, let alone have one thrust upon them.  My gender is  quite a personal matter and should be of concern only to me and my close friends.  At base, we are all just human beings.  And I think it is good when human beings love and it is bad when they hate, regardless of who is loved or who is hated.  Hating people because of whom they love is insanity.   Killing people because of whom they love is an offense against humanity.  

I am a human being.

We are all just human beings.  I’m sure that you have been informed by now that we stand at the dawn of a new millennium.  That time division we are approaching is just as arbitrary as any other division we humans have made.  But the divisions we make of time and space don’t affect us as seriously as do the ways we carve up humanity.  If we wish this looming time division to have some special meaning, let us dedicate ourselves to removing the boundaries we place between us and around us, so that each individual has the opportunity to reach full potential.  It is time for us to start pulling together rather than pulling apart.  It is time for us all to be human beings…and to start honoring our common humanity.

I’m still stumbling around trying to dredge up words to express thoughts coalescing…if I can get them to do so…around the subject of hate.

At times like this I sometimes turn to art in order to get myself into the mood.  But on this subject, I’m rather at a loss.

What are the colors of hate?

I shall still try to grasp it in some way, but I doubt if I will ever understand it.  I only have the target’s view.  I don’t know that it is sufficient.  I don’t know how to hate people.  I am pleased with that state of affairs.

Hate lives in the dark places…of the mind, heart and soul…and too often is carved in blood on its targets.

That some folks seem to think hate is a necessary form of expression, to the point where they think it should be so protected by the first amendment that hate crimes laws should be opposed pains me greatly.

In the next breath people defend their rights.  But some of us do not have those rights.  The problem with always defending is that when it comes time to push back against the barriers of darkness, the defenders usually don’t show up.

I would be more thankful if people could think beyond protecting the rights they have, to capture the thought that there are people who do not have those same rights…and never have had.  It’s not sufficient to defend your rights.  You must show up when it comes time to push back against the barriers of darkness and grant rights to people who have never been protected before.


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    • Robyn on November 24, 2007 at 12:08 am

    Because of that, this piece is ill-prepared.  I shall endeavor to fix it, access permitting.

    • RiaD on November 24, 2007 at 12:48 am

    if only everyone believed this…

  1. Especially this:

    I would be more thankful if people could think beyond protecting the rights they have, to capture the thought that there are people who do not have those same rights…and never have had.  It’s not sufficient to defend your rights.  You must show up when it comes time to push back against the barriers of darkness and grant rights to people who have never been protected before.

    That is the challenge of our times, I think.

  2. finished reading The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen, but its mostly his journey to try and understand hate. Here are some thoughts of his that I found provocative:

    I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters “shall be entitled to their labor,” and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred…

    Europeans felt that they were (and are) entitled to the labor and the land of North and South America. Slave owners clearly felt they were entitled to the labor (and the lives) of their slaves,not only in partial payment for protecting slaves from their own idleness, but also simply as a return on their capital investment. Owners of nonhuman capital today feel they, too, are entitled to the “surplus return on labor,” as economists put it, as part of the their reward for furnishing jobs, and to provide a return on their investment in capital. Rapists act on the belief that they are entitled to their victims’ bodies, and entitled to inflict cruelty upon them. Americans act as though we are entitled to consume the majority of the world’s resources, and to change the world’s climate. All industrialized humans act like they’re entitled to anything they want on this planet.

  3. protected by the First Amendment is an abomination and an outright lie.  Ironically, this so-called “argument” is usually advanced by those who would deny free expression to everyone who doesn’t exactly resemble themselves.

    Thanks Robyn.

  4. have been noticeably AWOL on almost all fronts. Were fostering hate all over the place globally and on the home front. I feel hate , racism, bigotry, violence, ignorance like never before. Hate and fear go hand and hand. So does anger I’m told, that I don’t believe as sometimes anger can be righteous, hate never. Fear can be abated with understanding, hates just a black hole. My art has suffered from fear, of the hatred I feel all around. Your art Robyn does spring from from the dark it is from the other place.  

    • lezlie on November 24, 2007 at 1:35 am

    of the color of hate… I would say hate has no color, no light, no heat. Hate is cold and dark and cuts thru the soul of the person who is hated as well as the person who hates. Hate is a destroyer.

    Robyn, your art is as good a representation as can be made of something so evil. I admire your talent and your strength of will to keep telling your story until people understand. No one can ‘tell it like it is’ unless they have been there. The rest of us can only imagine… but your essays, poems, and art help us understand. The world needs understanding now, for thru understanding comes acceptance.

    Thank you, Robyn, for all you do to teach.

    • Robyn on November 24, 2007 at 1:51 am


  5. Perhaps not being a hater, which, if the have any conscience, is probably hard, but hate itself is easy.  It’s often a group dynamic, with the hater being the cock-of-the-walk and showing off.

    Love’s difficult.  It’s usually personal.

  6. …(five years ago), I finally realized that hate is a terminally corrosive emotion, not to be indulged…doing probaly more damage to the hater than to anyone else, over time.  Very bad karma, that way lies.

    Have sworn it off (though, in full disclosure, where do I park my ha–, er, emotions vis-a-vis BushCo?).

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