"There's nothing in this world so sweet as love," wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "And next to love the sweetest thing is hate."
That seems to be the moral of the whole Chick-fil-A story. The fast food restaurant's critics say they are motivated by their opposition to hate. But it seems the opposite of hate isn't always love.
Demonstrating the class for which she is renowned, the actress-comedienne Roseanne Barr took to Twitter to suggest that anyone who patronizes Chick-fil-A "deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens." Such a loving sentiment.
Barr, now the presidential candidate of the inaptly named Peace and Freedom Party, later clarified that she simply meant processed food causes cancer and then apologized for the comment entirely (though not before taking a shot at "Christian liars"). Twitter is but a window into the human soul.
Then there is the now-infamous case of one Adam Smith, not to be confused with the economist. Smith decided to make a video of himself berating a young woman working at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru. He kept talking about "hate groups" and a "hateful corporation," remarking that the "anti-gay breakfast sandwich always tastes better because it is full of hate."
However much Smith dislikes hate, he is clearly in love with himself. After repeated bouts of self-congratulation during his harassment of the girl graciously serving him, Smith concluded, "I just did something really good, I feel purposeful." Believing that disagreement constitutes a hate crime must be a purpose-driven life, indeed.
Gawker served up a word souffle to go with your chicken sandwich: "This is the shape of a Christian protest: numerous participants expressing a dehumanizing spite of other citizens' human rights via loading up on meat-and-bread wads dropped into a deep fryer by a minimum-wage-slave."
The above exercise in remedial English ran under the following headline: "All meals are possible through Christ: hate-bingeing [sic] on the loaves and the chicken." Get it? Why did the Christian cross the road? This denunciation of dehumanizing spite contains its share of dehumanizing spite.
After a while, it becomes apparent that some people are less concerned about hate than making sure people hate the right things. Hate is bad, you see, but there is a loophole that allows us to hate the haters. Hate the sin and love hating the sinner.
It's an understandable temptation. It's hard to feel much tolerance, much less affection, for the hate-filled members of the Westboro Baptist Church. It comes naturally to want to return their hatred rather than, say, turn the other cheek.
Then there is the simple matter of debating emotionally charged issues. Few topics cut as close to the bone as religion and sexuality. It's easy to get hot under the collar. We've all done it.
But there's an almost precious lack of self-awareness in those who declaim hate yet make vitriolic statements about Christians they would immediately recognize as hateful if said about gays. Those silly fundies deserve it, don't they? The worshipers of the flying spaghetti monster have it coming because they're, well, hateful.
"All politics is local," Tip O'Neill used to say. Sometimes it seems as if all politics is identity politics, pitting the latte-sipping liberal against the chicken filet-munching right-winger. Perhaps the feminists were right instead: the personal is the political.
In his post-Watergate White House farewell address, Richard Nixon observed "others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself." Polarization teaches us to hate thy neighbor.
This, with apologies to E.J. Dionne, is why Americans hate politics.
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