Tuesday, November 19, 2013

America’s Hate Culture: Why Can’t We Get Along?

“They only write in if they don’t like something.”

Those were the wise words of my first editor after I received my first piece of hate mail, consider it another life lesson I learned from being a newspaper reporter. The story in question focused on a gay couple in eastern Connecticut that was hosting a benefit for a friend that was fighting cancer. The fact they were gay was absolutely peripheral to the story – it was only used to describe the two women.

hating on rg3
In response, a fine gentleman sent me a handwritten note on pink paper – he chose the pink paper because he said I would be able to read it better. He continued on, labeling me with words I don’t feel like repeating and ranting about how immoral it was to spotlight a homosexual paper in his weekend newspaper.

“He wouldn’t say that to your face,” my editor continued. “Don’t worry about it.”

And I didn’t. It may not seem like 2004 is that long ago, but it was. Our paper didn’t accept Letters to the Editor by email – why I have no idea – but we need them mailed to us. I fought this strictly because as the cubbiest of the cub reporters, I sometimes got tasked with typing them in.

In 2013, it is far too easy to let someone know you hate them. And as a culture, we can’t seem to stop doing it.

On Monday, a blog post I wrote in October on the Big Ten Network hurting Big Ten football ended up on several message boards. Why now? I have no idea. The multiple posts led to a significant increase in traffic. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of clicking on the inbound links.

“Scribblings is a very good title for what that "author" does. He is all over the place with his rambling. He hardly even sticks to the point of The Big Ten Network supposedly ruining Big Ten Football.”

“you can make a legitimate point about the BTN networks role in the fall of B10 football. however this article is just stupid and the author comes off as a total sec homer.”

“Here's a really poorly written blog post with lots of contradictions, but since everyone hates the Big 10 here it might get some lul”

And those are the polite takedowns of my post – I didn’t feel like copy and pasting, or re-reading, the comments about my affinity for other men. When do you think we’ll get past “gay” as an insult to sports-loving men? 2050? 2150?

It’s easy to pin the blame on this hate culture on social media and the Internet. The common refrain, similar to my editor’s thoughts a decade ago, is that it’s very easy to rip someone via a letter. It’s even easier to do so online behind a screen name, without revealing a name or a face.

But that’s not true anymore. Our hate culture has seeped into every facet of mainstream life.

This morning on the Metro, my Orange Line car to my place of employment was briefly filled with a group of Tea Party protestors on their way to protest God knows what at the White House. Their motorcycle outfits were adorned with buttons and stickers that alternately praised America and despised President Obama.

Think about that – an entire political party in this country exists essentially because it doesn’t like the President. I’ll give you one guess on the skin color of the 23 protestors.

It’s beyond the political party, though, as our entire discourse over politics in this country has devolved into pure, finely formed hate. Everyone on Fox News hates everything the Left does. Everyone on MSNBC hates everything the Right does. Democrats hate Republicans. Republicans hate Democrats. The Tea Party hates everybody. America is sick of everything.

How did we get here?

It’s no better in other walks of life too. On Sunday afternoon, Robert Griffin III nearly led the biggest comeback in Washington football history – yes, history – as he brought them back from a 24-0 fourth quarter deficit to a 24-16 score with under a minute the play. The game ended when RG3, under pressure, failed to throw the ball out of the end zone and it was intercepted.

What was the initial reaction? Were people calling for Mike Shanahan to be fired for another poor start? Was there love for RG3’s gutty performance? Were people disappointed that the Eagles and Chip Kelly’s offense seemed to perplex Washington again?

Nope. It was just people hurling insults at RG3 for the last play. Like a lot of them.

Yes, these people are on Twitter, but they aren’t hiding anything. That’s Joe Theismann bashing RG3. These are former Washington legends and current Washington reporters. Hate, hate, hate – that’s all there is.
I didn’t watch Miley Cyrus on the MTV Video Music Awards because I’m an adult. But the whole world apparently did – or at least they caught it on YouTube – and everyone joined in with their best Miley insults.

New shows? New movies? New music? New health care laws? Hate, hate, hate – that’s all there is.

No one is immune – not even me. The strange, new world of social media, the Internet and the ease of sharing ideas have revealed that the feeling we most like to get out is hate.

I hate the hate but how can it stop? Hate sells. We have become a nation of critics that like to complain.

What struck me most about the tear-inducing story of BatKid was how stunned we all were that people could be good – as if we had forgotten that was possible. And even then, I heard pretentious 20-somethings mocking Make-a-Wish because their future wishes won't live up to that. 

Can we enjoy anything anymore?

Why does BatKid have to be the exception while bashing Obama on Twitter is the rule?

Nothing is going to change. I just wanted to shout out into the wilderness that the hate culture is getting old.

BatKid, we need you every day. 

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