Healing Hatred, Not Judging It

What to do about Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Confederacy apologists and others who espouse an ideology of hate?

Well, it's tricky.

My first instinct, as an activist, a Jew and the son of a Holocaust survivor, is to say things like, "We need to fight back." The ADL, for example, talks about combatting racism and anti-Semitism. Left-leaners, just check your Facebook feed for an unlimited number of posts about fighting, combatting, confronting, and standing up to hate.

The alternative approach we hear is to ignore. Ignore what they're saying. Don't give them air time. It'll suffocate them like a fire without oxygen. 

Neither feels true. Hatred will not disappear by fighting it. Nor will it disappear by ignoring it. Hatred is properly understood as an emotion meeting a deep need. Anti-semitism, racism, and other belief systems built on hatred are cries for help, cries for attention. They are expressions of something deep, primal and true. They are, in other words, expressions of trauma.

What is the trauma? That varies person to person, place to place. Healing can happen on a societal level, but ultimately it's about a single human being, bringing awareness and compassion to their own suffering, in order to move through it and integrate it.

So what do we do?

I personally start by acknowledging the humanity of the haters. I feel my own hatred welling up inside, my judgement, my feelings of disgust, and I watch these feelings flow through me, signs of my old patterns. Now I see a person with similar feelings. Can I hold space for those feelings? Can I stand there with them and listen?

If we want to heal racism, heal anti-semitism, address these issues at the root, that's what's required. To listen with love and compassion to the ugliest things you've ever heard, to hold that space with reverence for the soul underneath, expressing extreme pain the way they know how.

Imagine that.