Hate and the religion of politics

A woman I know frequently tells me that many of the posts she sees on her Facebook page come from people who do not have a religious foundation or simply do not believe in God.  Politics is their religion, she says, and like all religious zealots, they will seek out and attack everyone who does not share their political beliefs.

It is hard to argue against that, especially when one considers the many outlets for these outbursts, from in-your-face media bias to vocal and angry crowds.  This does not paint with the broad brush of blame only individuals or groups with liberal leanings; there are plenty of right-wing nuts to go around who share a trait with their left-wing counterparts: hate.

The Democratic Party knew in 2004 that it had become the party of hate, which is why those who pulled the political strings within the party put out the word in the days leading up to their national convention that they would not welcome Bush-bashing, divisive rhetoric, and other forms of hate-filled language.  The memo read something like: "Anyone caught violating the tenets of our newly found political compassion toward those we hate will be thrashed wickedly like a colorfully headed child from another marriage (because 'beating you like a rented mule' doesn't sound good, given that our party's symbol is a donkey)."

There was wisdom to that kinder, gentler form of politics.  I witnessed that deep hatred earlier that year at a gala held by a local university attended by corporate swells and elected officials from the Houston area.  Then-House majority leader Tom DeLay from nearby Sugar Land was the draw for the ugly crowd that gathered outside the doors to wave signs, chant, and block the sidewalk.  Among the aggressive assemblage stood a young boy, not yet in his teens, shoving at passing vehicles a hand-drawn sign that read: "Honk if you HATE Republicans."

This made me curious, so I looked at various search engines for phrases that contained the word "hate."  Even though Google had been around about five years, it returned 1.6 million hits for "hate" and Bush.  "Hate" and Clinton returned about 757,000 pages.

Keep in mind that not all of these sites were real-for-sure political hate sites.  They just happen to have somewhere on their sites the words "hate" and either Bush or Clinton.

The editors of an Illinois newspaper saw the hate trend blossoming on their opinion page.  "Just a casual view ... is convincing evidence that the Bush-hating Democrats are hard at work vilifying President Bush!  Most of the 'hate' letters are not on the issues but merely ugly 'I hate Bush.'  Many don't even make any sense, like comparing our president to Hitler[.]"

Is this back to the future?

A Google search today is considerably more disturbing, probably because of the expansion of online sites.  My search for online hate returned 729 million results.

President Trump easily outdistanced the last guy by more than two to one, with 195 million returns.  Interestingly, both Clintons combined had 28 million more hate-related pages than Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Journalists appear to be more hated than priests, communism, and spammers combined.  And used car salespeople are surprisingly more hated than Congress.  Who knew?

We should not take political rhetoric seriously, just as one should not take seriously the rants of professional wrestlers.  But pro wrestling is popular, and lots of folks believe in their hearts that it is real.

The reality of all this hate rhetoric is that some folks have embraced it by abandoning civil discourse, critical thinking, and common decency.  Hate has become the new normal in our society, the inevitable result of exchanging religion for ideology, of exalting the created over the Creator.

John David Powell is an award-winning journalist living in Texas. His email address is johndavidpowell@yahoo.com.

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