Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Constitutional Right to Hate

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks
And the rich folks hate the poor folks
All of my folks hate all of your folks
It's American as apple pie
- Tom Lehrer, from his song "National Brotherhood Week"

We are all aware of many of the specific rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. But I bet you didn't know of one right the Constitution has given us: the right to hate anyone and anything we choose. There isn't specific language to this effect in this most hallowed of American documents but both logic and The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution clearly imply that it exists. Since the First Amendment explicitly prohibits restrictions on our freedom of speech, it is simple logic to conclude that it also protects freedom of thought (including hateful thoughts) since the one is meaningless without the other. The Ninth Amendment says that the failure to specifically enumerate the right to hate (among others) in the Constitution "...shall not be construed to deny or disparage..." that right being retained by the people.

This right is an unlimited one. We are in no way obligated to justify our hateful thoughts or develop excuses for them. We have an absolute right to hate irrationally, and without any basis whatsoever, as we see fit.

Although this may be a Constitutional right, it has been far too often violated by our well-meaning parents, teachers and other role-models who wanted to make sure that we did not grow up to be dead, a prison inmate or a misanthropic hermit by regularly admonishing us to "be nice". Frankly, they had a lot of first-hand experience with their own hatred and knew that it could have devastating consequences for the health and well-being of their progeny if they didn't make every effort to suppress it. And so our ideas of "good" and "bad" became intertwined with ridiculous notions of behavior: only "bad" people have "bad" emotions. No one wants to consider himself or herself "bad" or have others do so, so we dutifully surrendered our right to irrational hatred.

And yet we continued to have those feelings in spite of our best efforts not to because, in truth, it is as human to hate as it is to love. Then, at some point, we began to notice that expressing some forms of hate did not seem to brand those who did so as "bad" people. On the contrary, they were listened to, imitated and became the epicenter of "cliques". The reason this happened was obvious: they justified their hatred.

These instigators of ostracism and segregation always have eloquent reasons for their actions:

"God, he's such a dork, how can you hang around with him? You don't want people to start thinking YOU'RE a dork, do you?"

"Can you believe how fat she is? It's disgusting! And she's SO unfriendly. Barely says a word to anyone all day. You definitely don't want to be seen with HER!"

Oh I get it: it's not "bad" to hate someone if there's a reason to! In fact, it's not really hatred at all if the person deserves to be hated.

Meanwhile, the "trendsetters of hatred" get more and more sophisticated with their justifications as they move from school into the "real world". (Their motivation is, of course, unchanged: they want to control things and need a good excuse to get others to acquiesce.) Now they'll spout platitudes about entire groups without any basis:

"All Republicans are bigots."

"All Democrats hate America."

"All Moslems want to kill Christians."

"All Tea Partiers are loonies."

"All immigrants want to takeover our country."

This isn't hatred of course. What other reaction can be expected when confronted with the depravity of (insert your choice here: Republicans, Democrats, Moslems, Tea Partiers, immigrants)?

As a result, the popularity of these "opinionators" is greater than ever. They become pundits and get their own talk shows, do book deals, and make millions. They run for office on a platform that promises to deal with the "problem" of (insert your choice here: bigots, America-haters, Moslems, loonies, immigrants). They get elected and suddenly legislation is being proposed and, God forbid, enacted that is literally spawned by suppressed hatred and thousands of innocent people get hurt, not just some high-school kid nobody liked anyway. And it's all because we refused to exercise our absolute Constitutional right to hate without reason.

So forget about being "nice" or "good". If you don't like someone or something, even if that dislike is strong enough to be classified as "hate", go ahead and acknowledge it. But also remember that we hate first then find reasons to justify it, and it's the justification that's the problem. Beware the consequences, though: when you hate directly and unambiguously you run the risk of getting to know who or what it is you hate and it's just possible that you'll discover you don't hate him or her or it quite as much as you thought you did.