Yesterday, when hate was unleashed, we lost our innocence.

No one can learn to love by following a manual. (MC)

I am just an ordinary person trying to grapple with a hate crime.

Normality amid tragic circumstances is bizarre. Today, I walked the dog, chatted to a neighbour, watched a large group of bike rider’s speed by, and did the weekly shopping. A normal life of a very ordinary person.

Turn me inside out though, and it’s a different story. Shock, grief, sorrow, helplessness and sympathy smother my ‘ordinary’.  We woke this morning in New Zealand feeling different. Less than 24 hours ago our peaceful country was infiltrated by hate, violence, and ignorance. An act of terrorism. A country in mourning after a deadly massacre at two Christchurch mosques. As of today, 49 have been confirmed dead with more than 30 people hospitalised, some critical. We are a small county, sitting at the bottom of the world map. We believed we lived in a safe and peaceful country. Yesterday, when hate was unleashed, we lost our innocence.

As an ‘ordinary’ person I feel overwhelmed at the scale of hate crimes. I am distressed by our seemingly unlimited capacity for human depravity and distraught by the bottomless pit of hate and carnage left in its wake. War, rape, torture, crimes against gender, colour and cultures clutter our daily news. Shootings, serial killings, the Holocaust and religious atrocities litter our histories but are still just as prevalent today. Have we not learned anything?  The sheer magnitude of this, and my feelings of ‘ordinariness’, render me powerless to effect any change. My belief and hope for peace and a better world is fragile and tenuous. It is hard to love in the face of this hate.

Love and hate – the two most powerful feelings in the world. Our emotions are ruled by them. Indeed, every other emotion seems to stem from these two simple four-letter words. Things like jealousy, long-suffering, greed, retaliation, anger, compassion, despair, and redemption depend on love or hate for existence. Already we have people threatening all sorts of death sentences, talking about what they would do to the perpetrator(s) of this hideous crime in our country. Hate is easy, especially if it feels justified.

In his article The Differences Between Love and Hate, Jeff Campagna says,

“Our world’s history is so riddled with hateful people and hateful acts we seem used to it, and when those hateful people act out against other hateful people, and all the hate starts to fly back and forth, it feels as if it is right, as if it is normal. Hate is our status quo. To get to love, one must pass hate. Most people, in their weak and sedated state, just stop at hate. It’s closer.”

But while hate may be the easier of the love/hate emotions, love is by far the hardest, the bravest and most courageous of options. People carry such wrong notions about love. Love has become a two-way street. People forget that love is a one-way street. These days people love only if they are loved or get something in return.

But love cannot be found through external influence. Love does not flow into you; it can only flow out of you. No one can learn to love by following a manual. Love does not force its will on anybody. We cannot control it, there is no economic value and it is impossible to measure. Love takes guts especially in the face of injustice. It is the greatest weapon we have, but it cannot be enforced through reforms, legislation or government policy.  You can’t love to order – you must be the love – because love’s steps are experienced not legislated.

Well-known black American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. And despite his own personal experiences of being on the receiving end of hate, and that of his country’s long history of hate against black people, he was a man captured by love for his enemies. He said,
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding a deeper darkness to the night
already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only love can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate:
only love can do that.”

King also said that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. He had seen so much hate and found the burden too much to bear so he decided to love. What an incredible man, and it brings the answer to humankind’s problems a lot closer to home. The choice to love or hate belongs to us, as both exist in us – you and me.  Don’t rely on the government to fix this.

Love and hate – two sides of the same coin. King believed that someone who hates does not know God, but someone who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

Could it be that this ‘love’ will ultimately be the key to peace? Could it be that I can do something to effect change?  If love resides inside me, then love can only come out of me, which means I, and you, just ordinary people, can do something. Choosing love will be hate’s inescapable downfall.

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