Hatred is a funny thing.
It sweeps over people like a none too gentle breeze and, for most,
passes just as quickly. For others, unfortunately, it sticks like
annoying gum they can never quite scrape off the bottom of their shoe.
Some declarations of hate are easy to understand because theyre
familiar to us. The I hate you rants of a teenager who believes his
or her curfew is too strict. The emotional outbursts during a
contentious divorce. The deeply wounded lamentations of a crime victim
toward a criminal.
We even understand the vitriolic nonsense that passes for political
discourse these days. Some Democrats claimed to hate George W. Bush.
Some Republicans now claim to hate Barack Obama. But its a transitory
kind of hate most Democrats regained their emotional equilibrium once
Bush left office as most Republicans will do in six years when Obama
Unfortunately, there is another level of hate that does not pass by
quickly but lingers with a fetid stench that is passed from one
generation to the next.
The recent arrest of former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic
on various murder, genocide and crimes against humanity charges brings
this to mind.
Mladic is accused of the massacre of 8.300 Bosnian civilians in what
was supposed to be a safe zone during the Bosnia/Croatia war in the
90s. He had previously led the four-year siege of Sarajevo in the
former Yugoslavia, the longest such military action in modern history.
The result was another 10,000 deaths.
It all sounds like just another nasty little war in another forgotten
part of the world except that it had 700 year old roots. This is
hatred in the form of a contagious infection festering in perpetuity.
The genesis of these things is often a genuine wrong perpetrated and
then perpetuated by one ethnicity or race or religion against another.
The injustice passes but anger is kept alive by political rhetoric,
imperialistic land grabbers, ambitious military leaders and parents
regaling their children with tales of iniquity, real and imagined.
Ratko Mladic operated in a part of the world where that hatred has been
seething unabated for nearly 35 generations.
The irrational excuses for this kind of nonsense are almost limitless.
a long tribal feud finally exploded in genocide in the 90s. Somewhere
between 800,000 and 850,000 Rwandans were murdered in about 100 days.
The immediate cause of the bloodshed was the murder of the Rwandan
president. Underneath it all was the simmering hatred between two
tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. They have been squabbling for control
of the region for nearly two centuries. The minority Tutsis ruled
badly for decades and were finally toppled from power by the Hutus.
The real fuse of this massacre was a lot more basic: the two tribes
dont look alike. The ruling Tutsis and their European benefactors
decided it was their appearance taller, thinner and with a longer,
narrower nose that made them superior and conjured some sociological
nonsense to try and prove their point. The hatred that resulted never
The Hutus, seeking vengeance for decades of oppression and bigotry
based on their appearance, went completely mad. Slightly more than
three months after it started, at least 800,000 Tutsis were dead.
In Rwanda it was tribal power and physical appearance. In Northern
Ireland it was political power and religion that spawned hatred.
This one has a 17th century birthday. Protestants against Catholics,
those loyal to the British monarchys control against those craving
The modern version of this ongoing generational hatred, euphemistically
referred to as the Troubles, took 3,000 civilian lives between 1966
and 1998, as the Catholic paramilitary group, the Provisional Irish
Republican Army and the Protestant paramilitary group, the Ulster
Volunteer Force, traded terrorist bombings and other various forms of
random mayhem and murder. Peace broke out in 1998 but the hatred is
still very real as are the occasional acts of violence that still
Then there are the Jewish people who have been the target of hatred
from a revolving door of oppressors. Their modern era of horrors
starts in the year 70 C.E. when the Romans massacred, captured and
enslaved more than a million Jews in the process of destroying
Seems the Romans and their polytheistic paganism didnt much care for a
monotheistic Judaism. That difference of opinion was, to the Romans,
worth 1,000,000 Jewish lives. Those they didnt kill they exiled from
a land they called Palestine. (Interesting that 2000 years ago
Palestine was the place where the Jewish people lived.)
Of course, Jews have been persecuted for their religion for at least 20
centuries and for their ethnicity for the last 100 years or so.
Theyve been blamed for any number of global economic disasters, the
Black Plague, the flu epidemic of 1918. You name it and theres a good
chance theyve been blamed and persecuted for it. From the Romans to
the Nazis to Hamas, this is the great grandfather of hatred, an
outlandish inheritance of bigotry passed along from parents to children
for nearly 100 generations.
We have our own issues with irrational hatred. Way too many thought it
was perfectly acceptable to enslave people based on their race. And we
tried to systematically eradicate the indigenous peoples already
populating this continent when our European ancestors showed up.
Slavery and genocide, two paragons of hatred, excused as states rights
and manifest destiny.
The sociologists and researchers tell us humans have a natural
inclination to be suspicious, even fearful, of people who dont look
like us, speak like us, or believe the same things we believe. That
suspicion can breed hatred but is generally relieved with familiarity
The kind of hatred that lasts centuries is most certainly not natural.
We teach it to our children and they to theirs. It has many names
racism, antisemitism, nationalism, tribalism, nativism, xenophobia and
more but the common thread, regardless of the name, is still hatred.
We are responsible for it. We can end it. Its time we teach our
children there is no room for it.