You would think I’d have a lot of reason to hate. My brother was murdered by a man who could get only 20 years in jail, being released well before I even consider retirement. My brother was taken the week before he was going to meet his first niece, leaving an exciting new chapter in my life instead marred by trauma and grief. My family is a mess as a result, and we spend our lives alternately smothering each other and just wanting to be alone. Oddly enough, however, I’ve found some serenity here. The only way I can cope with such terrible events is through forgiveness. I cannot let the man who took my brother’s life take mine, too. I can’t look out on the political world, or worse yet the warzone that is social media, and condemn other humans based on their differing beliefs. I’ve tried opening my eyes, and seeing other people’s points of view. Even when I find myself in direct conflict, I try to understand why the other person opposes me. When I cannot figure it out, I try to talk to them and work it out together.
Unfortunately, every day I see others letting their lives be ruled by hatred of other people. I can’t talk to my family, check Twitter, or read the news without it starting to dominate my life as well. This is my attempt to catalogue the daily hatred that I see- not to find pity or dwell, but in the hopes that those who read this can consider the daily effects of their hatred on themselves and those around them. An open dialogue between two disagreeing humans will always be more fulfilling than a war between demonized enemies.
It’s important to not point fingers and perpetuate a sense of blame. I’ll be leaving out identities as much as possible, mostly for my own sake in trying to observe behavior rather than punish people.
The most obvious source of hatred in my life revolves around my brother’s murder. My family has taken it hard, many even harder than myself. I come from two profoundly religious families, and they try to use their beliefs for comfort. This works some days, but others it clearly does little to soften the blow. Some family members have sunk into depression, unable to live a single normal day all these months later. Some have thrown themselves into their lives, distancing themselves from other family for the sake of work and hobbies- trying to dodge the pain in any way possible. Most, however, have found anger flaring up in their lives. Whether directed or not, manifesting itself in obvious ways or more abstract ones, most of my family has dealt with an unhealthy amount of rage. I know that I am not free of this, though I’ve tried to stay aware whenever it happens and find my outlets. I remove myself from other people until I can pull myself together. I find myself working from home when I can’t keep myself in order, or reading alone in a room, or trying meditation. Regardless, I find myself occasionally vilifying others unfairly as I search for a reason to be angry.
Much of the rest of my family has coped the same way- ensuring that co-workers or bosses are the bad guy, insisting the checker at the grocery store has it out for them, or deciding that elements of their family are no longer worth their time. One family member, above others, has embraced their hatred and pointed it directly at every opportunity. Let’s call this person, in the name of irony, Happy. Happy is, of course, enraged at the murderer- this is understandable. It might be considered inhuman to not hate that person in our situation. However, Happy goes beyond, aiming that hatred at their series of lawyers, political parties they feel would release him too soon, even being near willing to correct the crime with one of their own if given the chance. Refusing to seek any help, or to accept it from others, Happy spends most days of their life hunting for opponents. Politics are a ready target, as Happy was already rather gung-ho with their political beliefs. Happy slips into dehumanizing hyperbole every time I speak to them, insisting those with differing political beliefs are “sub-human pukes”, or “despicable scum”. As someone who has held similar beliefs to those “inhuman slime-buckets”, it can be hard not to take that personally. More importantly, they are giving up any chance of discourse in the name of anger. They believe those that disagree are willfully evil, not simply seeking to do what they think is best. It can be hard to realize that there are no antagonists in the real world- everyone thinks they are the hero in their own life. Even those that commit despicable acts did so believing they were somehow justified. Admittedly, there are some that even I cannot forgive. My brother’s murderer isn’t even the worst criminal I’ve ever seen- at least once per week, I see something far worse on the news. But I cannot let their existence dominate my own. I can’t let hatred of a person override my values. I can’t take a life, even if that life ended one that I cherished. Feeling hatred so profoundly that you are willing to end someone does not condemn their life so much as it taints your own.
I deal with the dragging, intense weight of last year every day. It affects me every day, even when I don’t realize it is. It makes it all the more absurd that the daily flame wars on social media have been affecting me as profoundly as they have. In the past, Twitter has been my distraction when I need to take five. I follow a robust mix of friends, programming authorities, entertainers, and of course, pop culture critics. It’s safe to say I’m a power nerd, and the people I follow reflect that. Last year, however, soon after I returned from the funeral, the escape of Twitter turned into a battleground with the advent of GamerGate. If you’re not sure what that is, feel free to Google it real quick. I have prepared a few posts on the topic, but most are still stewing in editing land as I try to make sure what I think is worth saying.
Long story short, GamerGate is about vilifying people. It started out harassing someone for their personal life, in the belief that it affected gaming journalism. It’s spiraled into a war of ideologies that wages far outside the space of video games. Ultimately, it’s been difficult for me to relate to anyone up in arms over ethics in game journalism, as the stakes couldn’t possibly be lower than worrying Call of Duty got a 9 when it deserved an 8. There are far greater injustices to tackle. Some are using it as a platform to decry the lack of diversity in the game industry, and ultimately in the tech world at large. I couldn’t be happier with that topic getting more attention. I hire Computer Science majors from local colleges for my company’s apprenticeship program, and it’s a good month when 1 in 10 applications are from a non-white-male. But more often, both ends of GamerGate are about trying to destroy enemies. It’s well documented that those in the court of GamerGate have harassed, threatened, and otherwise made miserable the lives of their opponents. I think that some under the flag of GamerGate are not harassers, and that plenty more are just too young to know what they’re doing. I cringe at the thought of being judged by my actions at 15. This is not to justify the actions of those who have gotten out of line. Truly, at this point, it’s a bit ridiculous to still fly the flag of GamerGate when you see where it came from, and what it’s used for. If you truly are trying to argue about ethics, and that discussion is worthwhile to you, it should be simple to distance yourself from that group and keep the discussion alive without the hashtag.
But that’s not what fills my feed with hatred. After all, I don’t follow many GamerGaters anymore. I unfollowed those whose views I found unpalatable, and the rest smartly distanced themselves from the movement. The hatred I see every day comes from those on the other side- those who I want so desperately to agree with, those fighting the ethical battles I really care about. This is a group of people I keep following and keep listening to, because I want to respect them. I think they are working toward admirable goals, and many of them have been writers I respect. The problem is, they aim to win their arguments not with rhetoric, but by belittling, harassing, and destroying those who they disagree with. They are somehow both the opposite and the same as old Happy- their goals are just about diametrically opposed, but neither is willing to consider the other side. Both would rather write off those that disagree with them as sub-human, making jokes at their expense in the hope that it will delegitimize their enemies. In the past several months, I’ve seen people I respect attempt to destroy careers over the kinds of offenses that seem straight out of the McCarthy trials. Association with the wrong people, questioning the doctrine (even in earnest, simply seeking enlightenment), even enjoying the wrong entertainment is reason enough to condemn a person directly. I can’t pretend to know what those who have been harassed have been through. I know what it’s like to be scared of living in your own home, but not what it’s like to be justified in that fear. I don’t know what it’s like to have thousands of people calling for your head every week, or to be hated just for saying what you think is right. What I do know is that, much like in dealing with grief, it’s easy to turn that pain into hatred- to protect yourself by aiming that pain right back out. But I also know that it’s no way to solve a problem. Arguing through attack will never convince the other side, and will simply make them more entrenched. No matter how deplorable you find your opponent, sinking to their level- whether it’s through targeted harassment or physical harm- does not disarm them, it simply lessens you.
I’m not sure this post will be read by more than a handful of people, nor that it will be meaningful to those that get through it. I can only hope that in sharing my experience, I can convince you to take a step back and make sure that no matter what is hurting you- you’re not the one keeping the wounds open.