How Do We Stop All The Hate that Surrounds Us?
Two Quick Lessons from 12 Angry Men
Major spoilers for 12 Angry Men, it’s on Amazon Prime, so please just watch it.
An old man stands up in a group of jurors and begins to rant about the defendant.
He screams “Look, you know how these people lie. It’s born in them!”
One of the jurors stands up and turns his back.
The old man continues to rant “They get drunk! They’re big drinkers, all of them!
Two more jurors stand and turn their backs.
The old man tries to justify what he saying “Nobody is blaming them for it. That’s the way they are, by nature.
Another turns their back.
“Human life don’t mean as much to them!”
Another back turns.
“They’re no good! There’s not one of them who’s any good!”
All have turned their back on the old man except for one juror who still sits silently.
The old man begins to plead with the sitting juror.
“Listen to me. Listen to me.”
The last juror looks up and says:
“I have. Now, sit down and don’t open your mouth again.”
I love this moment in 12 Angry Men. It is one of the reasons I go back to the film 57 years after its release. Moments like these are why it is the 5th highest rated film on IMDB despite its simple set and premise. The hater is completely shut down by the community and he actually seems to undergo some change.
But that’s not really how it works…
I wish this was how we could get rid of the hate around us. Ignore them till they get tired of being ignored. Then just tell them to shut up and go sit in the corner.
I wish it was that simple.
But it is not.
They Can’t Be Ignored
If we just ignore the hate, they will find those who will listen. They will find them by any means necessary. They will create subreddits, build blogs and create public forums of anonymity. The scum will build into a disgusting cesspool that mutates within its own echo chamber.
So what do we do instead of ignoring them?
Try to Understand Why They Hate
To start extracting the hate that surrounds us, we have to begin at the individual level.
Let’s look at another moment in 12 Angry Men.
While the angry bigoted old man is silenced, there is one more angry voice in the crowd of jurors.
Juror #3. The bully of the group.
He is the last juror to crumble underneath the intense scrutiny of Henry Fonda. He digs in his heels and yells at the crowd amassing against him.
But why is he so angry? Why does he refuse the logic presented to him?
He hates so loudly.
But the hate is a symptom. It has nothing to do with the case. It has nothing to do with anyone in the room.
As he begins to forget things due to his rage-fueled brain, Juror #3 reaches into his wallet to find his notes. His hands tremble as his anger fill his body. He drops the wallet and its contents scatter on the table.
A photograph falls out of it.
Throughout the entire film, he has mentioned his son. He has mentioned the anger he feels towards him. The anger that feels towards himself. The anger he has decided to take out on the defendant.
Now his son lies here on the table for all to see.
He sees the photo and starts to shred it. He freezes, realizing what he is doing. Why he refuses to budge.
Then he just cries.
“Not guilty. Not guilty.”
His head hangs low as each of the juror’s leave the room.
Then Henry Fonda, originally the lone dissenting vote, the man who fought for justice and won against all odds, does something unexpected:
He helps Juror #3 with his coat.
Juror #3 has spent the last hour and half yelling and berating Henry. He has pulled no punches in describing his disdain for what Henry was trying to do.
And how does Henry react?
He helps him with his coat.
You want to know how to change someone’s heart? Yank the hate from their soul?
You love them unconditionally.
You may not accept what they believe. You may work against them. But you must act in love. When you act in love to those who hate, you will shock them. They will be confused and bewildered.
Hate only leads to more hate.
We have to love in order to break the cycle.