I just passed a sign in a store window that says, “No Vacancy for Hate.” Well, I thought, that’s a little less righteous than similar messages in front lawns and restaurant portals: “Hate Is Not Welcome Here,” “Hate Is Not a Family Value,” and other censures of the number one sin in America at the present time.
By “hate,” of course, the posters don’t mean anything as general as that. They don’t even target the actual feeling of hate. They have in mind a less visceral trait, certain religious and social beliefs that cross the progressive line. Organizations that purport to monitor hate in America—Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, and others—regularly set hate on the starboard side of the spectrum. Last December, in testimony before Congress, SPLC president Richard Cohen refused to include the far-left Antifa among hate groups. We condemn their strong-arm tactics, Cohen maintained, but “Antifa is not a group that vilifies people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and the like.” You don’t have to doanything to earn the “hate” designation. You just have to believe the wrong things about people. Those who adhere to a biblical conception of marriage are haters. If you’re willing to consider that income and education gaps between blacks and whites have causes other than systemic racism, you’re edging toward hate. If you’re skeptical that a man can occupy a woman’s body, you’re definitely a hater.
No doubt, every individual in the United States has at least one opinion that throws him into the party of odium. With the number of long-standing assumptions that give offense growing all the time, if you question anybody long enough, he will eventually breach a taboo. He may let slip the suspicion that the wage gap follows mainly from women’s choices, or that the incarceration rates of black males begin with fatherless households, or merely that transgender people are troubled. Few Americans wish to act cruelly to women, Muslims, Jews, gays, blacks, or any other historically disadvantaged group, but one opinion or another they avow nonetheless convicts them. I am sure that many liberals don’t approve of hauling a religious working-class baker before the state because he didn’t want to put two men on a wedding cake, but they don’t want to be called hateful, either. The signs remind them who is cast out of society these days.
To be on the receiving end of the charge is exasperating. With no preparation, you discover that what you thought was your informed or commonplace view has been translated into a bare animus. It’s a rhetorical switch, gathering traditional tenets into a single loathsome trait. I loaded “conservative hate” into Google Alerts a few weeks ago and every day receive a dozen stories and op-eds that cite it without clarifying it. Apparently, the authors don’t think they have to explain how the Alliance Defending Freedom’s jurisprudence and Charles Murray’s social science amount to hate. They just do.
How can you react when you are accused of hate except sputter, “No, I don’t hate anyone”? In the accuser’s eyes, this is no exculpation. He’s got you like Prufrock “pinned and wriggling on the wall,” and he doesn’t want to let go. If you ignore the charge, you come off as guilty or cowardly. If you laugh, you appear to make light of others’ suffering. If you get mad and respond, “Take that back or it’s fighting words!” then you confirm the charge. Only haters get violent!
Be aware, conservatives. You have no answer to the sign in the restaurant window. You’re in the barred ranks and should move on. Or you can ignore the ban, play it cool, and ask for a table. But you’ve been put on notice. The people here don’t like you, no matter how decorous your conduct.
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