Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hate and the Perfect Victim

I don't do this.

I don't comment on current news stories, I don't do tribute art. I try VERY hard not to jump into publishing industry drama and genre drama. It's kind of my rule. I don't do anything that might capitalize on somebody else's misery.

But the Chapel Hill shooting has affected me.

One, because nobody IRL is talking about it past "He (the shooter) was angry over parking".

Two, because this should not have happened. 

In case you live under a rock (or get all your news from mainstream media) three beautiful people, a newly married couple and the wife's sister, were killed by an asshole who hated them and everything they stood for. The couple were deeply into charity work. The man seems to have been an all-around ass. And in a perfect world this would be all we'd need to say. We'd be able to grasp the gravity of what happened. We'd be able to comprehend the tragedy, speak for how unfair it is, shake our heads and then make an effort to make sure it never happens again. But we don't, and so we have to bring in details.

 The murder victims were muslim, and the shooter was an athiest.

These details should not matter. Our first question when someone is killed by someone else should not be "what did the victim do" or "what were their races?" or anything other than "How do we make this stop?" Victims of violent crime should not have to display their history to be helped. The clothes of a rape victim should not matter, or their blood alcohol content, or their gender. The victim of harassment should not first have to display their life story to "prove" that they did not deserve what they're getting. People who are hurt should not have to prove that they don't deserve pain.

We should not have Chapel Hill.

We should not have Gamer Gate.

We should not have Charlie Hebbdo.

We should not look at that list and think that any one of those people deserved it.

But we do. We look at rape victims and rate them on a scale from Virgin to Whore. We look at a murder victim and ask what they did and why. We say "This shouldn't have happened, but look at what they did" in the same breath, as if the first part has anything to do with the last.

We walk over homeless people. We deny the mentally ill necessary medications because they have a history of addiction. We tell women they asked to be raped and tell men that they can't be raped at all. We write stories where a young woman's death is justified by her sex life and her words, and another's survive by her pre-determined goodness. We indicate who the valued are through how pleasant they are to look at and be with.

We tell people that their pain is their fault.

We tell them that if they were only better, we'd care.

And then we celebrate the people who "fit" our victim checklist. Which is, if anything, just as bad. When we find our Perfect Victim, we put them on a pedestal. We look at them and point at them and go "Isn't this just horrible, what happened to them? Isn't it clear, how little they deserved it?" We treat them as if they are a broken treasure that must be kept and built back up and lauded.

We trap this person in the horror of the worst moment of their life. We keep them in a box labeled by the scars they carry forever. We make them choose between hiding their pain or having that pain be the definition of their relationship with us. We make them tell that story, THE story, over and over and over again until it's some malignant catechism they chant with their eyes closed, hoping that this time the words won't catch on their soul and hurt them all over again. We make the event that tore their life apart be the thing immediately following their name.

Sometimes we even use that in place of their name.

We become so caught up in the headiness of finally, finally having someone to rescue, we forget that victims are people, and by the time they have a story, they no longer need you to save them. Either they're recovering or their dead, and either way their story is not and never will be yours. Feeling sympathy does not entitle you to someone's life story. It just means you're a decent person.

Hate isn't only a problem when the victims are the nice, shiny people we want to know. It's a problem when the victims aren't lovely, when they're somebody you'd rather forget, and when something about them makes you squirm. Because the problem is not the victim. The problem is Hate.

There's a lot of bible verses that get flung around like confetti, but one that doesn't is the bit where Jesus says it's not what goes into a person that defiles them, but what comes out. The emotions and events and information you receive do not make you less of a person. A hurt one, yes. Even a scarred one. One thing I learned this past year that PTSD is a scar of memory. But that doesn't diminish you, build you up or break you down. It's what you do that counts. It's what you think, what you say.

And hate only exists inside you.

The only hate you will ever truly feel, the way you see the sky and taste your food and hear your music, is the hate that comes from your own brain and heart. That heady, hot, volcanic urge to destroy that's so addictive, so good to feel and so horrible to remember. That's the worst hate in the world. That feeling is what will destroy the world...and you in the process.

This is why it is so important to guard yourself, and your thoughts. Why it is so important to be generous to others. To make the joy of others your passion. To look at a person's pain rather than the circumstances around it and no matter what say "I'm sorry." To make other people valid, and the fact of their existence, rather than the nature of their lives, the definition of their value.

We need to learn how to love, not eros but agape, unselfishly and unconditionally, with the object of the beloved's own good above our own. Not because it makes us better people or because we get a benefit, but because it's right. This kind of love is literally what the bible repeats, over and over again. When Jesus says "Love your enemies" he uses the greek word agapāte. It is literally a command to care so deeply for those you currently hate that you would die for their welfare.

Because it's hard.

Because it's dangerous.

But most of all, because the people you hate are worth it.

We need to learn how to say I'm sorry without conditions.

We need to learn how to say I forgive you without conditions.

The details--the wonderful, myriad differences that make each of us unique, our religion and our sexuality, our gender, our heritage--should enrich our lives, not define our value as people. We should hate what people do. Hate the unfairness, the inequality, the cruelty, the blood letting. But don't hate them, because you might as well be the murderer when you do.

We need to learn that each individual person is the most priceless thing we will ever see.

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