Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does Love Ever Really Beat Hate?

I never could have made it as a hippie. I'm just too cynical, and was even in my most idealistic days in my youth.

So while I very much respect the two women who went to great effort to create this international blogging effort (which you can read about here, here and/or here), I couldn't bring myself to sign up with the two dozen or so participants.

Because, when it comes down to it, I don't believe that love beats hate for the people who are sensitive enough to be hurt by the haters, whether we are talking about the homophobic bullying that has led too many youths to kill themselves or we're talking about the kind of people who insist fibromyalgia is a "made-up disease" claimed by malingerers and people with chronic pain are all a bunch of drug addicts playing on doctors' sympathies to get their fix.

For some of us, and I include myself among the (at times) overly sensitive, it just takes that one hater, that one meanie, to wound us to the core. And for some reason, the cruel words or taunts are what we hear and remember most; those whispers can drown out an ocean of supportive, kind comments.

It's sad, but true. I wish it were not, and I hope that I'm wrong, because truly I would much prefer my daughter to grow up in a world where she, unlike me as a child, can shrug off the occasional kid who inevitably will say she is ugly or fat or stupid because she knows that the people who count are the ones who think she is beautiful inside and out and love her brain as much as I do.

(Fwiw, I never had trouble shrugging off the kids who insulted my intelligence. :-)

I have people on the outskirts of my life who roll their eyes when the issue if my health comes up, people who think I'm lazy or it's all in my head. Or that the intense chronic, clinical fatigue I have is similar to what they feel when they stay up for a night or two with a normally healthy kid who has a bad cold or the flu.

It hurts sometimes, like when my fellow MOMS Club board members voted, at a meeting I was too sick to attend, to move the board meetings to a time they knew was too early in the day for me to attend. It wasn't on the agenda, and they just took advantage of my absence. It was my last remaining social activity, and when I complained the only response I got was that the decision was unanimous. And these were allegedly my friends, whom I'd done a favor when I agreed to do a second term in a job no one else wanted. 

Does "love" make a difference? Sure. I've written before about how grateful I am to have found the incredibly supportive chronic illness community through the blogosphere and other social media. It's a huge help with the sense of isolation that I felt in the early months of my illness, and I try to be supportive to others, too. 
But I'm not convinced that the "love" will ever beat the "hate" until and unless we all stop letting the haters get to us. Although it doesn't always feel that way, it's our choice when we let the things people say or do (or don't do) to us upset us. 
I'm not suggesting that people ignore bullying or hate speech. Of course, we should all object to it when we see/hear it, wherever that may be. But taking it personally? From a stranger on the Internet? That's just crazy talk. 

And I can say that because I've been the one talking crazy, getting my feelings hurt when someone I don't even know directs their meanness to me via email or the comments section on my blog. It wasn't that long ago that I sobbed to Scott that a meanie, who doesn't even read my blog regularly enough to know my health issues, called me a bad mom for taking meds exactly as prescribed by my doctor. She told me about a former colleague who said she had chronic fatigue syndrome but turned out to be juggling a full-time job, full-time college and being a mom. Yeah, I wish that were the reason I'm beyond exhausted all the time; if nothing else, it would be better for the budget! :-)

So that's my 2 cents. What do y'all think?



Barry Fotheringham said...

I'm amazed that someone would take the time to read a blog post, go through the comment moderation process and post something so insensitive. There's a line in a song that goes "if people were more sensitive I wouldn't have to be so sensitive". Hardly profound but it speaks truth to me.

Although we cannot shield ourselves from random acts of unkindness or insensitivity or selfishness, I think we can and should swing the balance back in our favour by being super-selective about who we let into our lives (and keep in).

I understand what you mean about one horrible comment making all the nice ones fade away but I don't think it has to be thus. When I got ill I was frantically trying to keep connected to those who had been in my life but I quickly realised that some of them were bad for my physical or mental health and I should let them go. Not easy to do when you are facing isolation through illness but necessary, I'd say.

What I've found, through spending more time communicating with people who truly understand and care, is that I have less need or desire to justify myself to the random idiots out there or to try to educate and convince my friends that I'm not just lazy/depressed. I'm cynical too and have always been very quick to point out the faults with society and people but I'm finding that the more I swing the balance in my favour by being around the right people the more I start to feel love for humanity and compassion for the misguided types who just don't get it.

No getting away from the fact that we will get angry, upset or offended from time to time because of some unthinking windbag but I hope and am starting to believe that we can lessen that impact with careful cultivation of our social/support networks.

Diana Lee said...

I thank you from not being afraid to share your perspective.

I guess my response would be that the entire purpose of the event is to band together and say that the power of being coming together IS stronger than the meanies. That doesn't mean that it's always easy to feel that way, of course.

WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

I am always amazed at the vitriol some people spew out in the supposed safeness of the web. I suspect they are the same people who made catty remarks in high school and sit and gripe about their boss at lunch time. I always ask myself - does this serve a purpose, and what purpose am I serving??

I think some people are only happy when others are unhappy. Must be a control issue, and since I know I am uncontrollable that doesn't work with me!!! Hang in there!!! Don't let the haters get you down!

Jeanne said...

Hi Aviva,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Love Beats Hate.

I'm sorry that you have been hurt by the negative experiences you've described.

Like Barry above, I am always amazed when someone takes the time to leave a hurtful comment such as the one you described. Sadly, I believe there will always be "haters" and misguided people out there.

My perspective on the Love Beats Hate event is that the type of negativity you have described is precisely what prompted us to have such an event in the first place.

Speaking for myself, I certainly am not under any illusion that this event is going to magically do away with all of the "haters" and clique members who hurtfully exclude others. I know that won't happen.

For me, the event was a way to bring things into a better balance... We are often bombarded with bad press about social media. I believe having people speak about the benefits of it is important too.

Rather than continue to feel hurt or upset by things I have heard/read/seen online (including some which helped prompt this event), I would much prefer to try to focus energy on the love, support, and kindness that are so plentiful online... especially in the chronic illness community.

The same thing goes for blogs as for social media. They often get a "bad rap" in mainstream media (due to the extreme/negative incidents covered in the media)... when there are very many wonderful, informative, supportive sites available.

I personally think it would be nice if the media spent a fraction of the energy they do bad-mouthing the Internet to share some positive stories about it.

I'm not sure if you're aware of it or not but one of the motivating factors behind organizing this event involved a man who made some outrageous statements (including hate speech). It's interesting that you mentioned the whole concept that fibromyalgia is a "made-up disease". (As you know, I have fibro). I didn't take too kindly to the aforementioned man viciously attacking all fibro patients as fakers who have a "made-up disease". In fact, I was rather furious when I came across his page full of hate.

Did I get upset about the things this man said? Yes, I did (very much so). Did I try to do what was in my power to do something productive about it? Yes.

Once it became clear to me that this man has had pages taken down by Facebook over and over again when many, many people have reported him... only to start fresh hate pages in their place, it became less clear to me what I could do to handle my own emotional response.

This blogging event, organized within a week's time, has resulted in a large number of blog posts highlighting the fact that the Internet (social media sites, blogs, etc.) can be used as a force for good. :)

I have only read a fraction of the blog posts published for Love Beats Hate. Those that I have read have moved me to (happy) tears, made me laugh, and reminded me just how very much I have gotten out of the 2.5 years I have been online writing my blog.

I do believe there is a form of power in banding together. I believe that the "meanies" and "haters" can be far less effective when they are attacking people who feel the comfort of belonging to a group of people who care about them, support them, and even love them.