After a very late night on Saturday, I awoke Sunday morning (okay, afternoon) to a news notification on my phone about a killing at a Sikh temple. After I was up and going for the day I opened my computer and started reading the details of the situation. I’ve also been following the developments on the news. The shooter whom I will only name because he is dead (I don’t advertise for psychos looking for attention – see the Colorado shooting blog), Wade Michael Page, is a skinhead lunatic. Well, we know this guy’s an idiot already (hence the shooting) so it’s probably safe to assume that the moron got the Sikhs confused with Muslims and was convinced he was saving the U.S. from terrorists. At some point Sunday, I looked at my wife and actually asked, “What the fuck is wrong with people?” Other than the fact that the world is quickly going to hell, I would love a real answer to that. The reason my response has taken so long to prepare is because I did something that seems to be a foreign concept for a lot of people today…I did research!
I started with the word hate. I had to dissect hate to understand it. One of the most prevalent aspects of hate is anger. Many of these people are simply furious at the targets of their hostility. In this case, the hate was directed at Muslims (although this guy was too stupid to understand that Sikhs aren’t Muslim). The next question would be, what is anger?
From my research, I’ve determined that anger is a substitute emotion. This means that we use to in place of other emotions that we don’t want to feel. That could be fear, pain, or rejection. (For the remainder of this blog, please understand that I know Sikhs aren’t Muslims, but I’m assuming Page didn’t get that, so when I say Muslim understand that I know Sikhs aren’t Muslim.) I’m sure Page lived in fear of a Muslim terrorist attack. Like most Americans, I remember the September 11 attacks very vividly. I remember watching people on edge all day. People moved through a wide range of emotions from grief to fear. No matter what they started out feeling, I remember them all ending up angry. War was the topic on everyone’s mind. Revenge. All motivated from the pain of the loss or the fear of more attacks. Do I disagree? No. I’m just recognizing where it came from. Understanding ourselves will help us to understand others.
So this fear of terrorism that was so widespread in the days following the 9/11 attacks has since faded from the majority of us. There are a lot of reasons that this has happened. Time has healed many of us from the pain, we have worked to secure ourselves against terrorist, we have found and killed Osama Bin Laden. And most of us have grown to understand and accept the fact that all Muslims are not terrorist. We can live in harmony with our true Muslim brothers and sisters without fear. But people like Page have held onto that fear. Why, you ask? Ignorance. While I have no problem insulting this jackass, I don’t mean ignorance as an insult. I really mean that this guy did not have, or did not accept, the information necessary to release him from this fear. The worst problem is that, even if he was presented with the information, he was too full of fear and hate to accept it. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. He is in fear which leads to anger and hate. He is so enraged and fearful that he believes the information he is provided to help ease his fears is misleading. As he sees others accept the information and become less fearful, he believes that things are getting even worse, and his fear increases! Then the cycle starts over again at an even higher level. Eventually he is so full of fear, anger, and hate, that he feels he must act to protect himself and others. Then he kills innocent people. It’s not a justification, but I believe it’s the truth.
There are a lot of psychological and sociological theories that I have come across in my research that can further explain the process of hate. If you are really interested, or really bored, you can check them out at the links below. The following passage was taken from the conclusions in a paper titled The Social Psychology of Hatred by Evan R. Harrington. The conclusion gives us the theories that can further explain what’s going on in each situation.
“Theories such as deindividuation, diffusion of responsibility, and conformity help explain how groups become aggressive. Authoritarianism and social dominance theories help us understand the individual differences in socio-political styles that people have, as well as their implications for prejudice and nationalism. Social cognition research helps us understand how stereotypes are formed and why they persist in spite of contradictory information. Social identity theory provides insight not only into the fact that people frequently prefer their ingroup, but also into what conditions are most likely to cause intergroup hostility.”
Wow. Okay…have you made it this far? If so, I’m impressed. This reads more like a school essay than a blog. Here’s where it starts to get interesting. We know how this applies to situations like the Sikh temple killings. Now, let’s look at how it applies to other areas of our society.
One major conflict that we’ve seen in the media lately (and on this blog) has been the arguments over gay rights. I’m not going to re-hash the same old arguments on here. Suffice it to say that I, along with the rest of the rational and intelligent world, consider any group that fights to restrict the rights of a group of people as a hate group. I don’t care what your argument is, or if you look at yourself that way…its true. So let’s apply the same logic that I researched to that situation. Of interest are the social identity and social dominance theories. These theories begin to help us understand how people get to the point of hate against homosexuals.
People place themselves in groups at different levels. Americans, Christians, conservative Christians, etc. In accordance with the social dominance theory, there is a struggle to remain dominant by the groups in power. These groups work to oppress the subordinate groups. Well, it’s pretty easy to see that Christians are the dominant group in the U.S. In fact, around 78% of people in the United States identify themselves as Christians. The really telling piece of the puzzle is that this number is down. Sixty years ago, well over 90% of people identified as Christian. So the group in power is losing its power. The natural tendency is to struggle against groups that are increasing in power. So as many Christians see their religion becoming less dominant, they see a group, homosexuals, becoming increasingly visible and accepted by the masses. What’s worse, homosexuality is considered a sin to Christians. So naturally, they see this group as a target for their fear, anger, and hate. So they do their best to try and restrict the rights of this group and keep them in their place.
All of the sudden this whole psychology of hate doesn’t sound so far fetched. The theories are real. The logic is sound. The facts are there. If you are reading this (and you’ve made it this far) and you support the LGBT community, you are probably screaming “right on!” about now. If you are on the other side of the fence you are probably pretty defensive about now. If so, just calm down and try to think rationally for a minute. Read the links to the theories I’ve posted. Try to learn and understand something about your own reactions. Do what Wade Michael Page was unable to do before it was too late. Recognize the fear, anger, and hate that you have towards a group of people who have done nothing to harm you in any way. Why persecute them? Even the Bible doesn’t tell you to do that. Now don’t take this as me saying that you’re going to end up going all Looney Tunes and shooting up a gay bar (although homosexual hate crimes are common and wouldn’t surprise me). But, it’s the same path that those people walk…you just aren’t quite as far down the road. Stop. Take a look around. Choose a different road.