Freedom to Hate vs. Freedom to Hurt

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The last few weeks have seen a sudden surge in random violence, some ethnically directed, some not. We had the incident at the Colorado movie theater in July, the shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple a few weeks ago, and in the past two weeks we've seen a mosque burned to the ground in Missouri, someone firing an air rifle at a Chicago-area mosque, and tossing acid at the window of a Chicago-area Islamic school. While these are all terrifying, those last two hit a little closer to home for me, given that I used to live in Chicago, and still have friends and family who attend both institutions.

After posting the story about the acid at the school on Facebook yesterday, with a note from myself wondering what the heck is going on lately, it prompted assorted comments from different folks wondering how to raise kids in a world with so much hate, blaming hate talkers on the radio, and just bemoaning a general lack of effort to understand one another.

Most interesting, and perhaps most instructive, however, was a response from someone who, I'll say charitably, has a different set of ideological tent-poles than me:

More times then when situations like this happen it always said "the people who do these acts don't take the time to understand someone else's beliefs" well good thing this is America where we don't have to...I'm not saying what happened is right...nor do i condone the actions...all I'm saying is when we start saying that someone has to take time to understand another's view we are no longer a free is my belief that many of the people that do these things see all Muslims as extremist...i personally don't like Muslims extremist either only cause you didn't see any catholics flying planes into buildings...nor did i fight those idiots in Iraq...but to say its hate...well its my American right to hate be it...i don't have to like them....i don't have to even accept them...the left including this administration tries to ethnically segregate everyone...if a white guy shoots a black guy its a hate crime...if a black guy shoots a white guy its domestic violence...its the same thing

(All spelling and grammar is as it originally appeared.)

One thing I pride myself on vis-a-vis my Facebook interactions is keeping my wall open to different points-of-view, many of which I find genuinely illuminating, but it's difficult to know where to start with stuff like this. 

Freely caroming from "Muslims extremist" to the perceived racial slights of the Obama administration (because, of course, the notion of "hate crimes" only started during the last three years, and then only apply to race), it neatly sums up the bubbling cauldron of resentments our country has become for so many.

One part that stands out: "My American right to hate." I don't believe the person who posted this was coming from a hateful place, but he's so mired in talking points that he illustrates the precise reason we need to educate ourselves and challenge our presumptions. Yes, we all have the right to hate.

But it's not a blank check.

Freedom to hate isn't freedom to hurt. If people want to stand tall on their ignorance and wave that flag, God bless, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."


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