Americans were greeted with the news this week that right-wing radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh had succumbed to cancer. The reaction was sadly predictable. While many (particularly on the right) mourned his passing, a huge number of Americans who disagreed with Limbaugh’s politics erupted in cheers. Their sentiment: Good riddance.
This is where we are, my fellow Americans.
We now cheer the death of those with whom we disagree.
That’s right. Americans hate each other so much these days that they will enthusiastically and publicly celebrate the demise of politicians, judges, activists, commentators, or broadcasters with whom they disagree.
We have become so sick and twisted as a society that I don’t know if there’s any turning back.
If you hate a hater, you become a hater
One of the most deeply frustrating and lamentable aspects of political discourse these days is that it’s hard to make any point without being labeled or lumped in with some group or tribe. So, in that spirit, let me say this clearly:
I was neither a fan nor a regular listener of Rush Limbaugh.
Years ago during the Clinton presidency, I listened to him some. But in the years since, I moved away from the style and approach to political commentary embodied by Limbaugh and those like him.
My political views have likewise changed. While I was definitely politically conservative (that’s in the classic sense) in my younger days, I now believe both the left and the right are failing this country.
Washington warned what might happen if we didn’t heed that wisdom. And, well, he was right. We’re living in the nightmare he foresaw.
We have become so polarized in our respective camps and factions that we’d rather hate the other than listen to the other.
Americans Should Listen to George Washington Before It’s Too Late
“Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.”
Did Rush Limbaugh say and do some things in his career that deeply hurt and offended many people?
As but one example (and the one we’ve heard the most about in recent days), Limbaugh once mocked the death of people succumbing to AIDS.
It’s hard to get more hateful than that.
And I can emotionally understand people feeling that such a hater doesn’t deserve our sympathy or respect, but…
Consider this truth:
When you hate a hater, it makes a hater out of you
To hate someone makes you, from a moral and emotional perspective, no better than the object of your hate.
If you want to resist something, resist hate
It’s so easy to justify our rage and hate. It’s so easy to think that person X is so loathsome, so despicable that it warrants our total hatred.
Sadly, this is what characterizes politics today.
People today would rather misrepresent and caricature the other side than try to sit down and listen to them. They would rather deride, mock, attack, or (of late) censor disagreeable voices than strive to honestly understand one another and engage in (what’s the word) conversation.
Make no mistake. Rush Limbaugh was part of this political landscape — and that’s not a compliment.
But derision, contempt, and mockery are hardly the exclusive domain of the Rush and the right. Have you watched late-night TV lately?
If you go on social media (especially Twitter), you’ll see plenty of hate, vitriol, contempt, and mockery from all sides.
We don’t just disagree anymore. We hate each other.
And the hate has become so intense and so raw that we now wish suffering and death on those with whom we disagree.
Thomas Aquinas defined love as “to will the good of the other.”
Clearly, when you wish death on someone or cheer that when it happens, you are engaged in the very opposite of love. You are guilty of hate.
That is what we must resist.
Love and listening are the only way forward
There’s no question that history is full of people who gave themselves over to evil so thoroughly and so completely that there’s little to no reasoning with them.
But don’t be so quick to consign people to the category of Hitler or Stalin.
Don’t be so quick to assume the worst about other people’s motives and intentions.
The reality is that there are a lot of hurting people out there.
There’s a lot of pain, hurt, worry, and confusion.
And when you have a society full of hurt, pain, confusion, even (in some cases) desperation, it becomes fertile ground for the devil’s work.
I realize not everyone reading this shares my faith, but it’s hard to argue with the wisdom of Jesus who said we should love our neighbor as ourselves and that we should even show love to our enemies.
What’s more, I think of Paul the Apostle who said we must “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
We all — those on the left, those on the right, and those in the middle — must choose to love more and to listen more. That’s the only way forward.
No one is asking you to pay tribute to someone who you believe represents the opposite of your values and convictions. This isn’t a choice between celebrating someone’s death versus celebrating their life. That’s a false choice.
You can mourn someone’s passing and express gracious sentiments to a person’s loved ones even if you passionately disagree with what they said or did.
But if you give up mercy, grace, and compassion in order to advance what you believe is right, then what you lose is far greater than what you might gain.
And if our society continues down this path of bitterness, hate, and a complete lack of mercy, then we may as well start preparing now for our society’s funeral.
I wonder who will cheer and who will mourn that.