I’ve been thinking a lot about love and hate lately. It seems to be interlaced in conversations with friends and family at various levels. It is certainly present in our politics. It was present and at the center of conversations concerning John Lewis’s legacy. The brutality and seemingly mundane way in which George Floyd was murdered on the street in Minneapolis made me consider love and hate. The difference between love and hate is something you think you know once you become a young adult. At least, one believes their understanding of the difference is clear at that point. Truth is, this kind of understanding has nothing to do with age or gender. Its something that you embody.
I don’t want to get too philosophical. Things just seem to get squishy when you go down that road. You know, that place where someone says: There’s no right or wrong answer. Well, this is not that situation or conversation. There are clear differences and definitive actions that demonstrate love and hate. There are people that embody hate and love. I guess I am writing this because I have re-learned another aspect to what it means to be a lover and a hater recently.
Do The Right Think, Spike Lee - Director
People Who Hate
I’m not sure how it came up or how the conversation got started. I found myself describing the personality and disposition of a person I worked with for years. My final statement was – he is very definition of a hater. So this person held a relatively powerful position within the organization. He was able to appoint folks to roles and increase compensation almost at his whim. For the most part his persona was gregarious, friendly, and likeable. What I witnessed was an individual that despite his obvious power and personal persona, he was resentful and jealous of people if they were being praised by anyone but him. It didn’t matter what level the person receiving the praise was positioned, he found a way to weave a slight or insulting phrase into subsequent conversations or discussions involving that person. When people left the organization, he could not stop himself from denigrating their efforts and accomplishments. He made a point of telling their replacement that they would certainly “out shine” their predecessor.
The hate ran very deep. See, one of the other traits he had that was equally hard to witness was a need to incessantly praise and heap complements on those he feared. I didn’t really understand it at the time. I thought he was just being a sycophant and a suck up. He would then turn around a make some of the nastiest comments about a colleague or senior level person I have had to tolerate in my professional life. What I came to realize was that it was self hatred that caused this behavior. It was obvious to me that he didn’t actually believe the complimentary things that he said to the individual. At the same time he truly hated himself for saying them. It was as if his jealousy and resentment for the success the other person had obtained was so overwhelming that if he didn’t say outrageously flattering things to him, he might cuss and spit on him. He would then hate himself for being a coward.
Hence, I considered him the very personification of a hater. Which is different from hatred. We see true hatred when there are no controls or obstacles to expressing hate. This is an element of what we witness when genocide is perpetrated on groups of people. Those on the front lines of genocide experience the full expression of their hate. Ugly and despicable only begins to describe what you may witness. I have seen this expression of hate between families growing up in some of the neighborhoods that I lived in. The people transform into morphic creatures before your eyes. It’s a frightening sight.
People Who Love
Well enough of that. In my experience and contrary to what may be popular belief, people to love are not always smiling and happy. The people that I consider lovers generally live a life that sees beauty in almost every situation. Somehow there is a thread of optimism and hope they can witness regardless of the circumstance. Let me explain by way of an example.
One of my neighbors was the father of four. Two girls and two boys, along with his wife lived in a modest home. They lived on the end of the block. Anyone that’s lived in the city knows that living on the corner can be the best and worse of existence. Just depends on the block you live on. Because of their location, they got to see everything imaginable. He would always come out with a stern but concerned look to investigate the situation no matter what the situation was. If someone’s car didn’t work, it probably got pushed into the alley on the side of their house – we like to call them townhomes now but back then we called them rowhouses. He would ask a few questions, assess the persons involved and rub his chin. If he didn’t sense any danger, he would usually hold up his index finger, pause and go back into the house. In variably, he would come out with a tool box, a battery charger, or something to help the person on their way. He could navigate, positively influence almost any situation. He loved the hedges he had around the front of his house. When some of the guys were fighting in the alley they would always end up in his hedges. He would come out and grab them both somehow keeping them apart – I mean toddlers, teenagers or even grown men. I’m not sure how but he would do the same thing he did with the broken car. Assess the situation, show he understood both sides and negotiate a solution. He demonstrated love and affection for the people he lived with. I saw people wait around for him to come home so they could get his advice on a particular issue they were dealing with. Some might say that he was wise. I guess that’s true but it was more than that. I remember there was a vicious fight between two real bad asses in the neighborhood right on the corner one day when he arrived home. There had to be at least fifty people gathered all around. He parked, not in his usual place. Walked up, parted the crowd and got in between them. They cussed him and I thought they would beat him up. In the end they were more mad at him for breaking them up than they were at each other. They left going off in different directions. The rest of the people were milling around mummering . He said, “those two young men are really going places”. Everyone looked at him in astonishment with questionable expressions on their face. He kind of put his hands out, palms up and said – “I didn’t say it’s going to be anywhere good”. We all got a good laugh and he went and parked in his normal spot.
Lovers have a way of making you feel good about yourself, about possibilities. It might be a smile or a wink one day. It may be heart felt pat on the back that wasn’t really deserved on another day. Point is, they embody the love and it flows from them. You may not notice it immediately but if you are there long enough, it comes shining through. We seek them out when we need a little boost. The lovers never fail us.
Which One are You?
Well, I guess that’s the question we all ask ourselves. Over and over and over again in life. Most people can be both on any given day. The people I described live in one place almost all the time and that is why they stand out.
Me? I’m the angry man, remember. Sometimes I’m too busy being angry and upset to be either. I hope the people that meet me see more of a lover than anything else whether I’m smiling or not.
The Angry Man
We all know an angry man. It seems he always speaks with passion even when the words appear