Love and Hate in Charlottesville: A Tale of Two Emotions

Scott Olson via Getty Images

What happened in Charlottesville will happen again. We don’t know where, when, or even how. It does not matter how much anger we feel toward the coward who plowed his car into a group of peaceful protesters, how strongly we condemn the vile racism that motivated him, or how sincerely we declare that a tragedy like this must never be repeated. Hate will inevitably find its next champion, as it always has, and more innocent people will die needlessly. The only way we will ever free ourselves of this pattern is to stop supplying the hate that fuels it.

Unfortunately, this is rarely as easy as it sounds. Hatred is often donned in noble attire. It likes to masquerade as a righteous cause, inevitably finding one excuse or another to all-too conveniently declare that violence is the last vestige of hope for salvation and thus cannot be avoided.

Hate is why a bright young woman named Heather Heyer was murdered for daring to stand up and be heard. There is no other reason. There is no justification, no “greater purpose.” There is just a person, one who followed her conscience and strived to make the world better for those around her, dead. But while hatred may have stolen her life, it is love that will grant her immortality in the collective memories of an entire civilization.

Love needs no disguise to flourish, despite all the effort we tend to put into concealing it. It artfully combines the best of our cooperative instincts that enable us to survive and prosper. Love strengthens us and bestows upon us the gift of peace. Instead of shunning it by brandishing anyone who has even a semblance of a conscience as a “bleeding heart,” we should be celebrating it, while shunning those misguided people who would rather have blood on their hands than in their hearts.

Though police and multiple witnesses say that James Fields was clearly aiming his car at demonstrators and at no point appeared to be confused or frightened, his fellow hatemongers have been quick to claim that he simply “panicked” when faced with all those unarmed civilians minding their own business. And so, like any reasonable person would do, he put his car in drive and set out to murder as many of them as he could.

If that argument put forth by the KKK and other hate groups shocks you with its blatant stupidity, keep in mind that White Nationalists aren’t exactly known for their soaring intelligence. If you drive a fuel-inefficient pickup truck with a Confederate flag in the back window and your IQ is still lower than your gas mileage, you’re probably not going to be very adept at logic. That’s why you generally won’t find many skinheads at your local MENSA chapter.

When Fields, a fanatical Neo-Nazi, drove his car into a crowd of people, his sole objective was to hurt or kill the greatest number of them possible. Contrast that with Marcus Martin, a friend of Heyer’s who was also protesting the racist rally. When he saw that car barreling into the crowd, he heroically leapt into its path to push his fiancée, Marissa Blair, out of the way. As much as hate motivated Fields’ unprovoked attack, it was love that compelled Martin to risk his own life to save another.

Rather than work to address the underlying causes that led to this act of domestic terrorism, our elected officials on both sides of the aisle have chosen to fan the flames in their own cynical efforts to exploit this tragedy as a political weapon against their opponents.

We should instead be following the example set by Martin and others like him. Even more important than how Neo-Nazis and other racist dimwits act is how we react to them. We should condemn them. We should mock them. We should perhaps even pity them. But we must not hate them. If we do, we are only strengthening the basic force that drives and empowers their insanity. To slay this beast of our own making, we must starve it of the hatred on which it feeds so ravenously.

Both Republicans and Democrats need to stop all the finger-pointing and name-calling, as it serves only to augment the anger and animosity that already permeates the air like an explosive gas. We need to collectively cool our jets before another innocent person becomes the next martyr for peace.

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