Stop the Hatin’

A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a link to a discussion of a young pop star’s questionable entry in a guestbook at Anne Franks house in Amsterdam. While reading it, I came across a link to this article.

Now, that piece sounds a little extreme (and in some cases, more than a little), and I’d venture that the author’s intense dismay is not limited to certain white southerners, as his potshots at the Republican party suggest.

That said, I am caught somewhere between amused and bemused when I read in certain places about how critics of so-called Confederate “heritage” actually hate the South, hate white southerners, and are intent on “evilizing” white southerners. For one thing, I doubt that those advocates of Confederate heritage who venture into escapism and fantasy are in any way representative of white southerners as a group. In fact, most white southerners I know do not have nearly the intense interest in Confederate heritage that is displayed by these fringe groups. Nor do they necessarily share the same political, cultural, and social beliefs. Many of them find themselves caught somewhere between embarrassment and amusement at the antics and exclamations of these folks. In some cases, their understanding of history is somewhat superficial, but no more so than I have encountered elsewhere.

Moreover, “hate” to me is an extremely intense reaction to anything, and I confess that I find few things worth that sort of emotional commitment and energy … and it had better be worth it. I even manage to deal with fans of the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Boston Red Sox, and so on, because I understand the difference between a rivalry and a war. Do I hate┬áproponents of Confederate heritage? No. They aren’t worth that. I think some of their beliefs are pernicious, some of their motives malevolent, and some of their tone nasty, but what I find most astonishing about some of them (next, of course, to their sheer ignorance of American history) is that they appear to need to believe that other people “hate” them and are out after “the South,” which they tend to define as being a great deal like themselves. Given that they are not representative of white southerners, of course, this is nonsense. Moreover, one should not mistake disagreeing with their understanding of Confederate heritage as hating Confederate heritage. I do think there are key aspects of that heritage worth hating, of course, but that’s a different subject and in most cases an easy call (who does not hate slavery and racism? who does not deplore the tendency of some people to romanticize the enslavement of fellow human beings?)

What it comes back to for me is figuring out why certain people assume that others are motivated by hate and hatred. Why do they find themselves so consumed by those notions? Might there not be a little projection or displacement going on here? And might it not be a sign of the personalization of history, in which certain people of the present identify all too closely with people of the past, to the extent that they see an assessment of past historical figures as also an assessment of them? That just might be so.

In any case, set aside your hatred today. Anyone who’s a fan of baseball, of sports, or of American values knows why. It’s worth remembering, contemplating, and, yes, celebrating that triumph over hatred, ignorance, and prejudice.