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    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • May 27, 2016 in Columnists

    Hate is a pyre that can only consume us all

    Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.
    Maya Angelou

    Hate can’t destroy hate.
    Robin Pratt, dear old friend

    Now and then, Facebook unearths a wellspring of hatred so vituperative that I am taken aback, although I generally will not bow down to it. I know what I am responsible for — and what I am not. I will acknowledge, but I will not grovel.

    It started with a meme posted by a friend stating that 700 years of white miscreancy makes it far too late to call us “all one people.”

    Point taken and I get the rage. I was raised in Missouri in the 1950s and started speaking up about the terrible injustice starting at age 4. Does it mean that I know what it feels like to be black? Of course not. I do know what it’s like to be hated for extraneous superficials — nobody who ever weighed 420 lbs has no clue about that. Later, when I came into the Jewish identity that I inherited from my adoptive family (it’s an interesting dichotomy because adoption gives you two heritages where most people have only their genetic heritage), I got to experience firsthand enough antisemitism on a personal level to have a good clue what it’s like to be hated for one’s origins (if the man standing next to me that one time had had a gun and the freedom to act, I wouldn’t be alive to be writing this).

    Even though I was a child surrounded by a world created and formed by vile and vicious bigotry, I was surprisingly untainted by it. Children see things so clearly if left to their own devices, which I largely was, even though my view was, of necessity, one-sided. I didn’t just know it was intrinsically wrong, utterly irrational and unjust, it made me fucking furious. It was just flat out stupid and the idea that I looked just like the haters made me want to hurl.

    But this childhood of mine, being in the position of the white majority while loathing what they were doing, provided me with a unique perspective — and that has some value. What rounded it into a philosophy of what we need to evolve as humans was my time as a chat room host on AOL, back in the days when the internet was still relatively primitive.

    I was a host of AOL’s Israel room — which mostly had as its members a group of liberal American Jews rather than Israelis. I don’t mean liberal as in politically liberal. I mean that we weren’t generally Orthodox Jews because in Judaism, to a large extent, there are Orthodox Jews and then there’s everyone else and we’re only both of the same faith and people nominally and by heritage (or choice). We differ more than we agree.

    We were frequently descended upon by haters in that room — the Nazis, for whom there was no hope, and Palestinians, who could come in spewing hatred and disruption but would, at least, engage.

    Keep in mind, like a lot of liberal Jews, I have a lot of ambivalence about Israel. I’m not at all at ease about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. On the other hand, I understand that Israel was created out of the desperation of a landless people who were being slaughtered wholesale and had nowhere else to go. I also realized that I didn’t have anything like a political solution to suggest — I didn’t live there, I didn’t create it and the history of the area seemed to vary by the the origins of the historian.

    I did know this much, though, from having watched my newly desegregated schoolmates go from two hating bands of people alien to each other to two small groups of intransigent haters and a bunch of shyly curious would-be friends in the middle: The secret to healing was to deliberately and mindfully see each other’s human faces.  The change in the Israel room started because I asked two of the angriest of the Palestinians why they were so angry.

    Their stories stunned and desolated the entire room. The uncle of one and the father of the other had been doing nothing but work their fields when Israeli soldiers shot them dead.  Of course we would be furious, too! That’s horrible! And over and over again — we’re so very, very sorry they killed your family.

    The Palestinians were stunned. You really understand? You would be angry, too? You CARE??? And gradually, they began to listen, too. They listened to our two elders, our Holocaust survivors who shared their story — surprisingly similar and responded with — we are weeping at  your story. We never understood. Your pain is our pain.

     Your pain is our pain.

    Their pain had become ours. Their human faces — even as indirectly as online — were right there, visible, dear, comprehensible — and our human faces were clear to them. They came in hate. They stayed as friends. They brought in more friends and pretty soon, we had a lot of people from Palestine and other people from the Arab world, talking, exchanging stories of sorrow and injustice but also just good news. I got the job. My wife had a little girl today and I am so happy. My grandson had a bar mitzvah — I never thought I would live to have a grandson.

    The young person I ran into today could not see my human face. She saw  only a white visaged  maggot — not human. No potential to be of any value. Merely…white.  She unleashed her rage without hesitation, unleashed all the hate that white people as a group had earned fairly but white individuals may or may not have. She called me an “apologist for racism and white supremacy.”  Informed me that I was “despicable and disgusting!” Provided me with a chart that demonstrated how I had rendered myself worthless by stating my own opinion (based on the proof provided by mitochondrial DNA that we are all one people), by claiming my actually well-earned status as an ally — lumped together with all the other ways that I, as a member of the great, amorphous, amoebic mass of whites, was the very zenith of sexism (even though I am female), homophobic (even though I have raised children and have cherished family who are LGBTI), and then said “You’re scored very high on the white apologism bingo. Now if you will kindly fuck off. You’re too disgusting to even talk to.

    P.S. Good on you for playing the victim card [because I mentioned having lost family in the Holocaust]. Your people are taking it out on the Palestinians. But you can try to cover your racism with the “my family was slaughtered hence I can be racist” stuff.”

    Apparently antisemitism is a category completely apart from other “isms” and is permissible — even noble — because it’s her hate and her hate is by definition superior.

    But hate is a fool’s errand.  Because blistering hatred has worked so well for white people, let’s assume all white people deserve to be blisteringly hated. What people caught in its trap don’t seem to see is that hate creates pyrrhic victories. You may have won, but you are now the sole owner of the scorched earth. Now, rage is actually the very human response to injustice — I get rage. I have my own and I know perfectly well white people as a group have earned it. So call us on our shit. Hold us accountable for what we’ve had control over.  Don’t let anyone diminish the horrors of the past because they’re sick of hearing about it. But in the more important practicality of trying to evolve as a species, while that rage is reasonable, how is it helping? How is it a workable solution to immolate every single white person on earth in order to eradicate the monstrous ones and damn the collateral damage to those as anxious to see change as anybody?

    If we want a beautiful earth, filled with love, hating people categorically causes more harm than good. I have seen no examples in history where it was of any use at all. The real answer lies in seeing each other’s human faces and celebrating our delicious variety. Otherwise we go down in flames and wails of agony — both the hated and the haters in one terrible pyre.


    • Great column, Maya. You nailed it — “all one people” or all one pyre. I though MLK said hate cannot destroy hate?

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • May 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm
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      Thank you, love <3 MLK may well have said it -- it's just that my friend posted it to the immediately-post-slamming post I put up. I grew up in Missouri. I get the rage and I get why it's been absolutely earned. But most people of color, gay people, women -- we all realize we need ALL of us on board before we can evolve past it -- otherwise we're stewing in this toxic lava that was poured all over me yesterday. Truth is, I have a little post-hate hangover of sadness and disappointment, but I'm not the person whose rage and hate are devouring her from the inside. My hater deserves better.

    • I think you are onto something when you say: Hate is an addition.

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