Before getting into the meat of this posting, there are a few things that I would like to explain. My long absence is the first item I will address. The answer is twofold, I was sick and my 9 to 5 job is in a state of flux so I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to the research necessary for thought-provoking articles. I apologize for the unforseen break. The second item to dispense with is the content. Up until this point my posts have generally been of a news variety. Statements and conclusion backed up by evidence found in the media and studies. This posting differs because it is not entirely empirically based. Many of the conclusions do come from personal experience, but most people do not find evidence enough in experience alone. On this topic I had no choice, there are no studies that I could find or news articles backed up by fact-checkers that quite fit with this topic. The examples are sometimes broad and I do not feel that they always need citation. Hopefully, there is a modicum of truth buried in the ramblings that follow. Enjoy.
Long considered the most hate-driven of human acts murder has become an hourly event in our world. According to the editors of the Atlantic Review in an article comparing US murder rates to German, about 17,000 murders occur in the United States every year. That is 46 murders every day. Almost two murders every hour inside the United States alone. It takes me roughly three hours to write and proofread one of these posts, that is six murders before I can finish writing this. Take note that this number does not include justified murder like suspects killed by the police or soldiers killed in combat. That is a significant amount of death for one country to doll out every hour. If numbers from around the world could be included then the number would be even more staggering.
Murder is not the true topic of this post. What lies behind murder is the true topic. It is easy to assume that hate is the cause of most murders. Soldiers hate their enemies. Gang members hate their rivals. Addicts hate being sober. Betrayed spouses hate their unfaithful lovers. The followers of many gods hate the disbeliever. Apparently it is difficult to take another life without hate. Hate is not the only motivator for murder.
Another culprit hides behind an excellent public perception, an unnoticed hand leading us into situations hate alone couldn’t force us into. A feeling that steps through the atrocities and devastation and emerges pristine on the other side. The feeling that pushes us all, that we all experience in one way or another is love.
Without a love for their homeland would patriots be willing to kill for their country? A soldier that doesn’t love themselves, their family, their way of life, their country, or some combination isnt’ worth much. We show soldiers our love by giving them medals and parades. The armed forces show their love by giving soldiers rank and their fellow soldiers give them respect for their prowess in combat. All of these reasons, among other more personal ones, drive soldiers.
Rarely do we think of soldiers killing the enemy as murder, but it is. The difference is that it is justified murder. I worry that the negative connotation associated with murder is so great that the last sentence can only be taken as condemnatory. It is not, it is praise. The soldier takes the burden of having to kill other human beings from the rest of the citizenry. I like to believe that most of them don’t enjoy taking life. If any number of documentaries and news programs are correct then the next group doesn’t share the burden of taking life. They revel in it.
Gang member death is so common a story in our country that usually the story doesn’t make the front page. But are they entirely the hate-filled people who news programs would have us believe? Without a love for their neighborhood (despite any negative effects they may have on it) would a gang member be so willing to kill for a tiny piece of land? Is there not a type of love in killing to protect an adoptive family? Is it possible that killing a rival gang member is the same as killing an enemy in war? They certainly seem to think so.
The soldier fights for family and country and the gang member fights for other gang members and territory. The gang member gets respect and rank for killing more enemies than other members. The real trouble comes from the perception that anyone outside of the gang is the enemy. Would they be so likely to kill if they only hated other people and didn’t belong to their deviant family and strive for its love? It seems that their drive stems from a wish for acceptance. In a way most of us can’t understand, they want to be loved by the group.
A good counter-question to this argument would be what about gangs that kill their own members? The answer to that question comes in the next example, the loving spouse turned murderer. In this example, the murder is definitely hate-based, but the hate would not generate in deadly portions if not for a proportionate amount of love existing in the first place.
When friends part under bad circumstances they rarely go to the length of murder, even best friends. There are entire shows dedicated to spouses killing each other. There are poems, plays, and books about murdered lovers. Like the gang member it has become a staple story in our culture. There is likely no way to prove the correlation for amount of love to likelihood of murder, but I would make a bet that the deeper the love the higher possibility for death. When love reaches excessive levels it becomes worse than hate, it drives humans to cross lines they may never have imagined crossing in their lives. Like betrayed lovers gang members target their own with more vehemence than their enemies ever could.
The next example falls into the same group of excessive love exponentially generating excessive hate. The next group is religion, more specifically loving one’s religion. History shows us that this is by far the most dangerous group. The number of people murdered for religion is greater than all the other groups put together.. Mainly because many wars also had religious backing behind them. In the present day, we have the Islamic civil war and the conflict in Northern Ireland. Before these we had the Holocaust. Before that we had the Inquisition (a war on disbelief). Before that the Crusades where both sides committed atrocities. Other than these major conflicts there were the Salem witch hunts, Aztec sacrifice, the Chinese persecution of the Buddhist, and every hate group ever formed by radicalized religion.
But it isn’t hate that drives these basest of human acts, it is a love of God that drives them. The people who committed these atrocities had a myriad of reasons for doing what they did, but one of those reasons was a love of their religion and its tenets. Every major religion has restrictions on murder, most outright ban it. Yet most religions have blood on their hands. The Jewish people conquered cities. The Christians conquered cities. The Muslims conquered cities. That is an impossible feat when their gods don’t allow murder, yet they all managed to do just that. These religions have and still do contain sects that not only believe in murder but advocate it. A fact which defies logic.
At this point, extracting love from human life seems to be my argument, like so many pious albeit naïve thinkers that have pushed for eliminating hate, with no success I might add. Even the kindest of humans are still capable of hate. Most of us are taught to fear our hate, to understand that it is a dangerous emotion. Yet none of us are told to fear our love, at least not to fear how it can harm others. Hate without love dissipates quickly. Love without hate doesn’t. Love is the support structure hate needs to sustain itself. In order to grow to dangerous proportions, hate needs love. Love is hate’s food source; take out the love and hate withers and starves.
Is there a solution to this conundrum? I think not on the macro level, but perhaps on the personal level it is possible. In the end, the message is moderation. We can’t possibly rid ourselves of love anymore than we can of hate. The solution lies in finding the balance between the two. Not loving or hating too deeply. There is benefit in stepping back and examining the things one loves. There are surprises waiting for discovery, ends and lines to cross. Should a person kill for words on a page? Should a person kill for betrayal? Should a person kill for a street corner? The answer might be yes and it might be no, but we should at least be asking the question. I leave with a warning: beware what your love compels you to hate. Combining the two is deadly.