“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
According to Merriam-Webster, hate is defined as intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury; a systematic and especially politically exploited expression of hatred.
Without going down the politics rabbit hole, I’ve been mesmerized by the hate being exhibited in every corner of our nation. I’ve refrained from using the word great to describe our country, as the last time I did I was lambasted with comments about defining our country as such.
For the record, and quite frankly, I do believe the United States is a great country. If anyone doesn’t believe it to be so, well, I respect their opinion. However, all I would ask is that they look at other countries throughout the world and just make some simple comparisons before turning their opinion to judgment of others’ opinion.
In any event, this morning I find myself reflecting upon Nelson Mandela’s quote and the word, hate. I really do hate that word. I truly hate that it’s in my vocabulary. Hate in that sense is not the hate I’m referring to or what Nelson Mandela was referencing.
Maybe my mind is wandering a bit this morning because growing up Catholic I recognize that today is All Saints Day. Again, not trying to go down any rabbit holes, including the religion rabbit hole, but my mind wandered off to when I was 6 years old and attending St. Mary Mother of Jesus School in Brooklyn, NY.
Instead of celebrating Halloween we celebrated All Saints Day. We dressed up as the saints we may have been named after or as a saint we had learned about in class. It was a simpler time and hate certainly wasn’t in our vocabulary. At least hate as we know it today.
I remember attending camp in Coney Island and recall befriending kids from different backgrounds. Although, it’s only now looking back that I thought about the differences. Back then, we were all just kids with no prejudices whatsoever. We all got along very well and couldn’t wait to see each other the next day.
A few years later as my Mom remarried, we moved from our Italian neighborhood to one that was predominantly Jewish, and alongside low-income housing. As one might imagine, there was definitely some diversity in our school but overwhelmingly, my class was almost all Jewish.
In fact, I recall being one of only three kids in class during the Jewish holidays – it was me, Mary Ann Yip and Ruby Hope. Mary Ann was Chinese-American and Ruby was African-American. We, along with our Jewish friends, all got along. I don’t recall hate being in the equation despite us living in the mid to late-sixties amidst racial unrest televised seemingly non-stop.
Two years later we moved to Staten Island and to a neighborhood that wasn’t as diverse as the neighborhood we had left, but the schools had varying levels of diversity. I played basketball against junior high schools that were mostly black. Parish church teams, as well. Sure it was competitive but we all got along.
In eighth grade I was fortunate to play on the Junior High School All-Star team. The team was to play the Staten Island Junior High School champion. Well, the champion team had red uniforms, as did my school. So, when I was put in the game, I had to wear a different jersey, one that was not red.
Ken Washington, a player from another school offered me his jersey. It was light blue. I entered the game and scored a quick basket. A few minutes later during a timeout, I came to the bench and Ken, whom I had not known before except for playing against him, put his arm around me and jokingly said, my basket was the result of the luck of his jersey. We laughed. Ken was black, and back then, I didn’t give it a thought. We all got along.
Fond memories, for sure. All of them. And I’m glad I remember each one to this day!
However, thinking back and reflecting upon the Nelson Mandela quote above, I’ve realized that although the quote is true, it’s very eye-opening. Sadly, I can certainly say I wasn’t always innocent. I’m not sure when I had changed, or why.
Embarrassingly, there have been times when I’ve laughed with the crowd at the expense of others and made decisions that I now know were based in part upon what were clearly prejudices. Yet, I’m confident I can say I’ve never hated because of skin color, gender, age, background or religion.
I guess I always felt if I didn’t hate, I wasn’t prejudice or exhibiting discrimination. I was also going to mention not ‘disrespecting’ but I as I’ve gotten older I realize that disrespect is exhibited in a number of ways. So, yes, I have disrespected, as well. No excuses.
All that said, I’ve learned that being a good person is not about being politically correct. It’s not about any reason or justification whatsoever beyond just being a good person, and just one person in a world of equals.
My regret is only realizing all of this in recent years. My goal is to be a better person, not by trying to be better, but by being better intuitively because we should not have to try to be a good person.
A thought comes to mind – we know the opposite of hate is love, but maybe the opposite of hate should also be respect? After all, one of the definitions of respect is, due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.
Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!