Hatred Is a Disease. What Is the Cure?

Hatred is spreading like an epidemic across the country.

Just this past week, the United States has had another horrific mass shooting, and multiple attempted assassinations. The shooter targeted Jewish Americans at a synagogue; the mail bomber targeted prominent Democrats. What do the alleged perpetrators have in common? Extreme right wing ideology, MAGA swag, and hate. A lot, a lot of hate.

Spreading the germs of hatred is a Republican specialty. Obviously this rhetoric is harmful for everyone: Fear, anger, and hatred usually progress to violence. I think we can all agree that mass murders and bombs are bad. As a matter of fact, hate crimes have been designated a public health issue by the largest physician organization in the country.

Interestingly, the fear/anger/hate trifecta is especially bad for the person experiencing it.

Research shows that hostility increases the risk of developing heart disease, and worsens heart disease in those who already have it; more research shows that heart failure patients with high anger and hostility scores also have far more hospitalizations. Studies have also demonstrated that anger and temper flares are significantly associated with accelerated genetic aging, and even with an increased risk of death from all causes.

Some may be tempted to say: Fine, let the haters get sick and die.

But that attitude is as bad as theirs, which is hypocritical. Also, it’s not dealing with the root cause of the disease. So, what do we do, what’s the antidote to hate?

Basically, hatred is an illness, and we are the cure. We need to stand up, speak up, support, argue, vote…in short, take action.

Yes, the most effective management of hate involves us taking action, but what kind of action? The Southern Poverty Law Center has an excellent article on this with many tangible suggestions. The specifics will differ from person to person, and that’s okay.

Today, Sunday, my action was to go to church, where we prayed and talked about it and shared ideas. I’m thankful that our Christian faith* stands up for everyone (as opposed to the “many“, the new non-inclusive language used by other Christian faiths) and is not afraid to get political.

Later this afternoon, after a movie that featured only white actors, I led a gentle discussion about racism and intolerance with my kids. (Note to self: Never watch one of those “Buddies” movies again.) I hope to inoculate them against hatred.

This evening, I donated to a campaign…Then, I planned to vote early…And eventually, I reflected and drafted this blog post.

These are small things, but they matter. If every decent human took small actions like this everyday, we would live in a much healthier world.

*Here is the letter our bishops sent out in response to the synagogue shooting, and I am, again, so thankful to belong to my church:

Dear People of the Episcopal Churches in Massachusetts,
A ceremony celebrating new life has become the latest setting for the murderous intersection of bigotry, religious hatred and easy access to lethal weapons.
We extend our deepest condolences, solidarity and kinship to our sisters and brothers at the Tree of Life synagogue and to the wider Jewish community throughout the nation upon the massacre today in Pittsburgh.
We join with Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh, who writes, “Human beings have moral agency.  Someone chose to hate, and chose to kill.  And now we are faced with a choice as well–to do nothing, or to reject this hatred in the strongest possible words and actions, and to refute in every way, in every forum, the philosophical foundations of anti-Semitism wherever they have gained a foothold in our churches and our society.”
As people of faith, we also decry suggestions that the solution to such violence is further violence.  For national leaders to suggest that the solution is for our houses of worship (and by extension our schools, our movie theaters, our shopping centers and our outdoor concert venues) to be armed fortresses is to abdicate responsibility for addressing the root causes of this scourge.
We continue to insist that our grief and anger must issue not only in compassion and prayer, not only in increased vigilance and security, but also in continued advocacy for measures which will resist the religious and ethnic bigotry and easy access to lethal weapons which are among those root causes.
May we invoke the compassionate blessing of our God upon the victims of this act of terror and their loved ones, while rededicating ourselves once more to acting as agents of change for a more peaceful and just society.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts


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