Years ago, in the early days of me dumping my thoughts on this site, I proposed that we’re living through the most hateful time in history. If you read that post, you’ll see that I don’t mean it in the way that’s most obvious, that people are more hateful than ever, but instead that people feel more hated than ever. I’ve been thinking more about this lately, largely inspired by a series of Facebook posts that have come and gone over the years, but seem to be coming back with a vengeance. Although my premise hasn’t changed, I’m starting to have a better, perhaps slightly more paranoid, perspective about it all.
The posts that are relevant here are those in which non-marginalized groups (Americans, Christians) act like their views or beliefs or way of life is under assault…by somebody. Posts that I’ve written about before, like one that implies that the Pledge of Allegiance is offensive to some and is under attack. By whom, I don’t know, but under attack nevertheless.
Another caught my attention this week. This one has been around for a few years, but is making a comeback. It says that posting a prayer, specifically the Lord’s Prayer, goes against Facebook policy. This is absolutely not true. A simple search of the internet will bring up site after site explaining that it’s not true, and the way I can be 100% certain that it’s not true is because the posts, like the one in the screenshot here, are still on Facebook and haven’t been taken down. Two things are possible: 1) all the fact check sites are lying, posting the prayer is actually against Facebook’s policy, and the many people who posted this somehow slipped through the cracks, or 2) it’s not against Facebook policy to post the prayer and the people who are posting this don’t know truth from fiction. I’m going to place my bets on option #2.
The response to all this might be to see it as silly and harmless. Who cares if there are gullible people out there who think that Facebook is out to get them, or that liberals are out to get them, or that socialists are invading their bathrooms trying to make them use natural toothpaste and destroy their way of life? But I care. Not because I don’t like it when people look stupid (I don’t like it all the time, but there’s certainly comedic value in watching obvious stupidity), but because I think it’s far more nefarious.
And we finally get to the point of this update. I think what we’re seeing is a combination of what I’ve called persecution envy, but more than that, I think this is a new, far more devious way to get people to hate one another. We’ve always been nudged to hate others. We’ve hated groups of people because of the color of their skin. We’ve hated groups of people because of where they came from. We’ve hated groups of people because of the god they believed in. But those fundamental reasons for hating people aren’t socially acceptable anymore. If we hate people because of the color of their skin or their country of origin or their religion, we’re bigots and we know that being a bigot is bad. We still do it, and we find ways to tell ourselves that we’re not actually bigots (“I don’t see color,” “I’m not anti-immigrant, just anti-illegal immigrant,” and “I don’t hate Muslims, just radical Islam”), but when somebody explicitly tells us to hate somebody because of their skin color or their nationality or their religion, we immediately recognize it as bigotry. So the forces that drive us to hate others can’t do that anymore. But what they can do is tell us how much somebody, some nebulous undefined person, hates us. We can’t make the majority group in America hate minority groups by telling them to hate minority groups, but we can make the majority group think that everybody hates them. Then, and only then, is it OK for them to hate back, because they didn’t start it, somebody else started it by hating them first, and trying to take away their prayer and their pledge and their anthem and their god.
Thus, we live in this time of hate. We live in this time when people feel more hated by others than ever before. Where I saw this all as persecution envy before, I now see that more of it is about perpetuating hate in a time when explicit perpetuation of hate isn’t acceptable and is easily recognized. I hope some day this form of inspiring hate will also be easily recognized for what it is, and as socially unacceptable as telling somebody to hate any group of people. I hope I live to see that day.