When Activism Turns to Hate

I’m beginning to notice that it’s very normal for former fundamentalists to become loud-mouthed, opinionated activists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, or activists for that matter. In many ways, activism is a natural progression for those of us who have been repressed and oppressed. Liberalism does represent hope, equality and fairness for all, and that’s why we’re drawn to it. In other ways, though, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and of other people’s feelings when you become an activist. Liberalism can be as vitriolic, blind, and one-sided as the Tea Party. And liberalism is not ever 100% right or unbiased.

I know this is a contentious subject and this is the internet, so there will be hate-filled emails filling up my inbox soon. Because I don’t have time to enter into debate with so many haters, I won’t be allowing comments on this post. I also don’t give a fuck if you don’t like that. I don’t have time to have a heated debate on here. I simply am not interested in a battle, because if you want to have a battle of intellect, that’s one thing, but a battle of hatred, I can’t and won’t participate in.

It’s important for me to write this, though, because I was such an outspoken activist for so long. Although not all activism is bad, sometimes when we’re activists we’re less concerned about how many people and friendships we plow down in the way to our goal. We are driven, idealistic, and we feel we need to “save the world.” This isn’t unlike my days as a “soldier for Christ” in a cult. The passion-fueled idealism is actually quite the same. The blind zest to change the world and change other people’s views (as opposed to accepting them) isn’t far removed from fundamentalism. So, I guess, the questions I’m interested in putting out there is: At what point do we examine our activist ways and compare them to our fundamentalist ways? Are they the same in some ways? In what ways are they different? Will we wake up one day to realize that being a moderate doesn’t mean being the enemy? That maybe the world is less black and white than we think? And maybe being able to look at subjects with fairness (and from both sides) might actually help improve the world, the media, journalism, and debate more so than zealous activism? Maybe normal isn’t the enemy–maybe it’s a remnant of what we were taught as fundamentalists. 

Over time, I have damaged a lot of people I love because I was close-minded. I damaged friendships–some of them are irreparable and some of them meant a lot to me. I need to say sorry to those I hurt and also say that I’m more self-aware now. I’m more open to meaningful dialogue with people I care about and I’m more open to meaningful dialogue with most people now, because no one is ever above learning from someone else’s humanity. I’m interested in hearing another side of the argument. I’m interested in debate, only as long as it doesn’t damage my friendships with people I deeply care about.

Essentially, I prefer people over politics. I don’t want to live a life where I assume I’m 100% right about everything and the “Other” side is made up of idiots. That’s just not true. (It is true that there are a LOT of stupid people in the world, but they exist on both sides.) And I certainly don’t want to continue to make the world a vitriolic-filled place where only one side of the conversation is respected and others are bullied into silence. That’s not democratic. It’s also dehumanizing. All of our voices should be heard, and I hope we all aim for constructive dialogue and debate. I hope we all open our minds to people who are different from us–whether liberal or conservative–and really work on bringing more thoughtfulness and less hate to the table.

/end rant