When Hate Dies
The hard road back.
You fellas have been having a real good time of it lately, haven’t you? Ever since the insurrection, it’s been nothing short of a Grand Old Party.
Every time you go to one of your secret meetings in the woods, or your buddy’s basement, you keep getting stronger. It’s like a football team before the big game. Gathered in a circle, arms around each other’s shoulders. We all we got! We all we need! We all we got! We all we need!
Drinking a cheap version of Southern Comfort, you rehash the stories of the good old days before they took it all away. They have no idea what’s coming. You are going to take back what was yours by right, by God.
You’re getting all geared up for the rally next weekend. Just had the oil changed in your pickup, she’s running like a champ. You and your best bud took her out for a test run the other night. Bombing down a backroad, confederate flag slapping the wind, beer cans on the floorboards, guns in the gun rack behind your head. You never felt so alive!
You know what you're doing is right. It’s what has to be done.
None of them down at the factory know. You see them at work. You can’t stand the way they talk. You laugh to yourself when you watch how they move. You can be patient, you can wait because you know that someday, they’ll all be gone.
They are going to pay for everything you’ve suffered. Every bit of shame you’ve felt standing in line at the food bank.
How all the good paying jobs left town because they would work for less pay. How the damn screen door is all fucked up after you kicked it open because you heard something outside the other night.
They’re all thieves and cowards. They don’t belong here.
Saturday night and you are all out at the secret spot. You are high and tight from the weed and beer. Your hero is holding court. Telling the tribe about how’s glorious it’s going to be.
He was always a little stronger than you, a better athlete in high school. He always had his pick of the girls back then. Whichever one he wanted he always got. He is right on tonight, screaming the truth with the fire in his belly roaring.
Then you see it for the first time.
The hate in his eyes is so vicious and pure that his righteous indignation has turned into something else. It don’t even look like him.
You feel a twinge in your stomach. Something you never felt before. You don’t like it; you shrug it off. The meeting goes long into the night.
You make it home, shed your boots and crawl into bed hoping the room won’t start spinning.
Getting ready for work the next morning, looking in the mirror trying to decide whether to shave or not, it happens again.
That little jolt in your gut. It almost feels like fear.
But you are a fearless young white man. “I aint afraid of nothing” you say to the face looking back at you. But it’s there.
The next few days everything is back on track. That was just a freak thing. Nothing to be worried about.
But it didn’t go away.
You wake up in the dead of night, fear crawling up the back of your throat. You started sweating and breathing funny. What the fuck is going on? It only happens when you are alone. Over the next couple of weeks, it got so bad that you thought somebody must have drugged you. Shaking and sweating, always at night, always when you’re by yourself.
I just need to get to the next meeting, you tell yourself. This weekend, by the lake, everything will be ok.
It was a cool night and there was a big fire going at the campsite. Everybody brought their guns and there was going to be some night shooting later on. The boys were getting fired up and talking loud.
One of the men was telling about what he did to this little girl who wasn’t supposed to be in his neighborhood.
You watch the faces lit by fire, flickering rage, drunk from hate and beer. Eyes blazing, hanging on every word like they were caught in a fever.
Drinking it in like a thirsty dog chained out in the sun too long.
Then the fear came. Rifling up your back, crawling across your face. “I shouldn’t be here”.
You can’t believe you heard yourself say it. It wasn’t out loud or anything, but you said it. The fear seemed to stop. You drift away from the fire. Alone in the woods, you just need to breathe a little. But you make your way to your truck and leave.
Over the next few weeks, you barely speak. Only when spoken too and then just short choppy answers.
You had realized that all you were and all you had ever been, was a follower. Didn’t matter the cause. Or the reason. You just followed. That single thought didn’t sit well.
Somewhere along the line, something had shifted. A reckoning.
The way you saw it, you had three choices. Hit the pipe to keep the fear away.
Face the fact that you’re not like them anymore.
Or just lean that double barreled Browning that your grandpa had given you up against your forehead and be done with it.
Hate was easy. But you weren’t born that way.
You crack open a beer and take a good long pull.
The only thing you know for sure is, you can’t live like this.