Are we carefully taught?

~a guest commentary by Dale Hanaman

In the Rogers and Hammerstein sound track of the movie “South Pacific” is the song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught. The words are haunting to the ear. The first verse reads:
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught

We have to be carefully taught to hate and fear.

Ponder for a moment when you were taught to hate and fear. Who were you to hate and fear? Was it around issues of Protestants or Catholics, Christians or Muslims, people of color or those who are white, young or old, sighted or blind or even other differences? Where did we learn to hate – at home, the schoolyard, in church, on television? Who were the models for hatred?

Think even further, why are we taught to hate? Are we afraid? Are we feeling insecure? Why do we teach to hate? How does this reflect our faith in God? And what does it say about each one of us? So, if we have been taught to hate, can we learn new ways of interacting with others? Is all hatred wrong? Is it good to hate some things?

I attended an event recently where race discrimination was the central topic. As part of the sharing, the leader provided a visual model of a six-leveled pyramid of hate. Each succeeding upward level reflected an increase and intensity of manifested hate. Think about where and when you have witnessed one or more of these levels.

The broad base level entitled “Acts of Subtle Bias” included stereotyping, jokes, rumors, discussing feelings with like-minded others, accepting negative information and screening out positive information, and insensitive remarks.

Level two, “Acts of Prejudice and Bigotry” included scapegoating, slurs and name calling, ridicule, social avoidance, and de-humanizing.

The third level called “Acts of Discrimination” included harassment, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, educational discrimination, and social exclusion.

The next level called “Acts of Violence” included assault, terrorism, desecration, vandalism, and threats.

The next level “Acts of Extreme Violence to the Individual” included: murder, rape and arson.

The final level “Genocide”: the systematic extermination of an entire people.

In seeing these levels and descriptors we can see how easy it is to share in hate, to actively participate, or to stand by and do nothing when hatred is experienced. In our world we have witnessed people at all levels of hate. Just this last week we witnessed pipe bombs sent to prominent Democratic leaders and killing of Jewish men and women in the Tree of Life or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and six others wounded. In the “Me, Too” movement we have become all too aware of sexual and physical harassment of women.

We may have even offered hate in one form or another – or been the recipient. It is sad to reflect on our recent national and international news to see such levels of hate expressed. We are aware of some of these expressions of hate in our state and national election rhetoric. When considering such issues as immigration, asylum seekers, war, starvation, prisoners, as well as international affairs, we have clearly become more aware of these levels of hatred.

It is easy to oppose forms of hatred of pipe bombs mailed to maim or using weapons to kill faithful people in synagogues, mosques and churches. It is difficult to oppose ethnic jokes or slurs in conversation with others. It is even harder to oppose the racial slurs of friends and family, off-color jokes which demean others, or more subtle acts of hatred in our workplace and public space. We often overlook harassment, name-calling, and insensitive remarks.

Out of our faith journeys we are convicted if we do not oppose hatred in its varied forms. We can no longer stand by and do nothing. I believe we are called to listen carefully to our own conversations and those around us. We must be ever vigilant to oppose all signs of hatred. And when we hear any level of hatred aimed at anyone – we must be willing to challenge hatred in every form.

Dale Hanaman, Rippey

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