We’ve all experienced it. We recognize it by the tension in our stomach as we read it, by its extremist perspective, by the writer’s views on whatever the “hate” topic – close to ours in some ways, yet somehow a million miles away from us in style, approach, ethics and feeling.
The question for us is always how – or whether – to respond to this raw, affect laden expression? Do we try to keep an open mind about the writer and hope that we may perhaps find common ground that will eliminate the gut-wrenching “hate”, or do we spot entrenched danger signals that can never, never be corrected – and “bail out” asap? Since we can’t read the future, it is a judgment call based on the data at hand at the start of the process. And judgment calls-in either direction – as we know, can be wrong!
But “hate mail” is also a healthy test of our personal, ethical, humane, stylistic “boundaries”. Where do we stand? How far will we go? What approaches and tactics proposed by the “hate mail” for “problem-solving” are unacceptable to us? Which tactics violate our beliefs and ethics? Solving a problem at any cost, with “no holds barred”, with no goals other than stirring up raw emotion and more “hate”, massive “hate” are not who we are, not what we are about.
We are activist reformers, yes, but we believe in the personal, human dignity of our opposition. We assume that they have a right to their beliefs, as we do. We oppose all tactics of human demonization by anyone involved in “conversations about change” or reform. If we can’t persuade by “telling the truth” (Vaclav Havel) in a respectful, forceful, courageous, humane way, we pollute ourselves. We become something we don’t respect or want to be. We lose our “moral compass”. And thereby we lose our way and fail miserably on a personal level.
One of our teachers many years ago cautioned us about the dangers of a successful movement. “Prepare for predators”, he said. Prepare for those – who are less successful in their own efforts – trying to pirate part of our barque, without understanding the “total package”, without recognizing that our “ship” only floats on decency, respect of others humanity, honesty, courage, ethics – guided by (we hope) a strong moral compass.
“Hate”, distortion of facts and public humiliation of anyone are not on our list and never will be!
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