A few weeks ago, I wrote about the book, Dignity, by Donna Hicks. Today I am writing about another important book I’ve read recently, The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity, by Sally Kohn. Sally was my intern many years ago when she was in law school and she was funny, sometimes quirky, and wicked smart. She is a progressive lesbian feminist from Brooklyn, who is also a television commentator. She appeared often on Fox News, where she would engage in verbal sparring with middle America conservatives. Now she appears on CNN.
Sally found that she was getting death threats and death tweets when she was on Fox News. Truly scary, vile messages. Her response, though, was creative — she started reaching out to the people who were sending them, and dialoguing with them to better understand why they felt that way. She then met with some of the senders and spoke to them about their backgrounds, and began to see the humanity in each of them. She went on to interview people who had left hate groups, some of whom had committed really heinous acts. She traveled around the country and around the globe to speak to people who had been involved in political conflicts around the world. She meets and describes true unsung heroes. She explores the sources of hate in the most intimate and most global of terms.
Sally has a disarming way of making enemies her friends. She is brilliant at reaching across the aisle. Her work is truly an act of love — not just for the people she meets, but for our nation and for society in general. She treats everyone with compassion, and she understands — perhaps intuitively — that each person has inherent worth, even if she totally disagrees with their viewpoint. This is exactly what Donna Hicks writes about in Dignity.
I have often wondered about this — many of you might be able to remember that in the old days, members of the U.S. Congress and Senate used to treat each other respectfully, even though they had fundamental ideological differences. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were famous friends and opera buddies, even though they wrote scathing, opposite opinions.
We are all capable of hating, Sally states. But we are all capable of loving, as well. We live in terrible times. But there is still hope. After all, the opposite of hate, Sally concludes, is understanding.
I’m not saying this is easy. But it is necessary, I think, because after all, we have to live together on this small island we call the earth.