Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Freedom to Hate

Hate - not a nice sounding word, or even an admirable emotion, right? I agree.

But, I do believe in one's legal "right to hate." I am nor discussing the morality of hatred here - but its legality!

Hatred has always existed, and I feel always will - until, of course, in some far-distant future life it can be "genomically" eliminated.

It is not how fiercely we hate someone, or some idea, or some culture, etc. it is how we deal with this feeling that matters. We need not associate with people or things we hate, we need not read literature or newspapers, or listen to the presentation of issues dealing with matters that are hateful to us, and we have the right to fiercely dispute the issue.

Nevertheless, the "right to hate" exists. One has the right to publicly declare one's detestation of Jews, Muslims, gun-owners, or, for that matter, child-molesters. But there are limits. One may not do so in a manner clearly designed to promote violent action.

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the inadvertent (lets assume it really was inadvertent) appearance of a message promoting a book supporting Holocaust-denial e-mailed to the PTA membership-list of a local elementary school. The parent promoting this book has the right to read it, extol it, and promote it - even on this group e-mail - as long as no law was violated. The fact that it somehow was sent to members of this e-mail list is a problem for those responsible for the administration of the site - not the sender's problem. He has the right to non-violently promote hate-material - and one has the right to hate him in return! But it is wrong to subject him to public exhortations such as "evict the Nazi" or to "threatening phone calls", as enumerated in the Times piece.

Hate him - yes. Never associate with him again - positively! Make conscientious oral or written assertions disputing his beliefs - absolutely. But - direct threats deliberately intended to interfere with his daily life and liberty - not permitted!

The United States does not outlaw the publication of hate literature, nor does it restrict use of public hate speech - as long as its intent is not to provoke violence. This "right to hate" speech does not exist in all countries. Germany has outlawed public expressions of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. I understand the "why" - but cannot support the "why."

As long as Germany (and other countries) feels the need to legally proscribe such expression, these banned issues, issues that have severely tarnished its history, must still remain firmly embedded in its soul. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, when the guilt of Germany's past is finally wrested from its anima, the "freedom to hate" will join other expressions permitted and embodied in the term "free speech."

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