It is hard for me to deal with hate. I have a big heart and even bigger empathy for just about everything. I can cry at a commercial, friends once told me a joke about a hunchback and teased me for saying “awww poor thing” at the punch line (I also detest Helen Keller jokes). It is hard for me to deal with hate because it leads to violence and not only are my morals and values against that, but my academic upbringing.
In the past two days I’ve had trouble processing hate that I’ve seen around me. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and people around the world remembered it in different ways, I’m sure not all “good.” I had to stop watching the NYC ceremony to avoid crying all day. It feels strange to do that for children that haven’t seen their parents but participating in the reading when I did not lose anyone myself. Like I was making more out of my empathy for them than their grief.
Here in London a smaller, but just as bittersweet, ceremony took place at the small 9/11 memorial across a park from the US embassy. There were police all around the park as I am sure there were around many US embassies around the world yesterday, but in London there were also anti-US radical muslim demonstrators. Now, I have given this group as much benefit of a doubt as I can and probably more than most people. I believe in free speech, but I couldn’t help but feel anguish and disgust as they burned a US flag and said awful things through a loudspeaker during the ceremony’s moment of silence, during families’ grief.
Later, actually the first time I saw them, part of this group walked up my street, directly below my window surrounded by police (probably to keep the peace between them and anyone who disagrees with them). At the time (before I heard about the ceremony disrupting) I tried to believe that they may be people I don’t agree with but not necessarily aggressive. Plenty of people in the US say crazy things (such as those who blame homosexuals for hurricanes), so I wanted to believe that these people could be just like them. Unnerving, irritating but overall harmless.
Today, I read in the news that the english and muslim radical groups got into a pub fight at the other end of our street and two people were stabbed. I realize this is just a solitary crime and the police were there within moments (there’s also a police station on our street), but I couldn’t help but feel a little afraid.
All that hate that I was trying to “understand” or be somehow “tolerant” of the day before had reared its head in a very ugly way. Now, from what I read the english group started the fight and there are no details on from which group the victims where, but hate is hate whether or not it is english or muslim.
I’m reminded of an anti-muslim protest that took place about 6 months ago in California. Mostly white and Christian demonstrators yelled very offensive and ignorant things at muslim civilians as they gathered for a hunger charity event. I was outraged as I watched the videos and confounded on how people within my own country could be so hateful and misguided in their targeting.
Then I turn back to the last 24 hours. How can I reconcile these two events? What is the balance between demonstration and public safety? (Something I’m sure London has thought a lot about lately). When is it right to limit free speech?
It is difficult for me to digest hate. I always seem acutely aware of the pain such violence causes. I have been taught to be tolerant of other cultures and opinions. I have learned to try to see another’s point of view. But sometimes, I know that despite the circumstances that drove a person to act, their act is indisputably wrong. I only wish there were an easier way to prevent such hatred, no matter what group it is against.