When I was a child and used the word hate (I hate spinach or liver or Devon or home ec), my mother would almost always counter my statement with, “Hate is a strong word” which meant, “don’t say it”. Once, when I was very angry at my mom because she was pressuring me to say hello to some popular kids at Ben Franklin, I used the word at her. “I hate you,” I hissed but immediately felt ashamed for using the word hate on my mother. I didn’t mean it. I meant, “I’m angry and embarrassed and too shy to talk to the popular kids. Leave me alone.”
My son used it on us a lot when he was younger, and occasionally I still hear him mutter it under his breath. I doubt he ever meant that he hated his dad or me. He probably meant he was angry or embarrassed. Whenever he said it I was transported back to 1974 and the costume jewelry aisle at Ben Franklin where I used the word at my mom.
Over the past couple of weeks because of two incidents involving the high school my teenagers attend, I’ve had reason to think about what the word hate means.
One incident involved a group from a “church” in Kansas protesting the name of the high school because it is thought that the poet after which the school is named was a homosexual.
Members of this “church” protest, among other things, schools and institutions the group thinks are accepting of homosexuality, Christian denominations it considers heretical, synagogues, and funerals of people killed in plane crashes or while on military duty or who were murdered. They carry signs meant to cause anguish or anger. One says, God Hates You. They taunt and dance and do whatever they can to make their targets react. I’ve read that this group is not a religious group, but an organized group that makes its money by taunting people, then suing them if the people they are protesting react in any way illegal.
The other incident involved a former student making death threats on the Internet against students and teachers. He posted a poll on a website called People’s Dirt asking who of 10 students and teachers should die. The student’s first post included this passage, “…ynot jus die now nd take a couple people i hate out wit me…” [sic]. This student, who now lives in Tennessee, was taken into custody and could serve up to 60 years for this incident. Interesting, his mother says that the students mentioned in the poll are his friends and that the whole thing was blown out of proportion. Based on what I read, I find it hard to believe that he is still friends with these kids.
So, back to my question, what is hate? I think hate is a weapon. The person doing the hating, or announcing the hate wants to harm those they claim to hate, knowing that no one wants to be hated. I used the weapon on my mom in 1974, my son used it on his dad and me many times in the past 14 years. The Westboro Baptist Church members use it on just about anyone but themselves. The former Whitman student used it on several people. The intent was the same in all cases — to cause pain.
My mom was right (again). Hate is a strong word.