Hate is alive. It’s alive in our country. It’s alive in our state. And, it’s alive in our city.
This hate for our fellow man is alarming. This hate for our brothers and sisters is ugly. This hate for those around us is scary.
After last week, this hate is also inspiring. After 16 years in the newspaper industry, I’ve decided to write my first published column.
As many in our area (and now the country) know, last week the Times Free Press announced a key personnel change shortly after the president’s visit to Chattanooga. Immediately following that announcement, the story morphed. It was spun to include political motivations, conspiracy theories and worse. The story was shopped by others to local media, national media and social media. Commentators weighed in adding more and more theory and less and less fact.
As disappointing as that may seem, it never really bothered me. However, what I saw afterward not only bothered me, it scared me to my core.
Racism. Sexism. Religious discrimination. Paranoia. Prejudice. Rage.
Our editors, managers, customer service reps, reporters, and others began receiving calls and emails from all across the nation that were nothing less than vicious. Complete strangers took the story out of context and claimed it was this newspaper succumbing to President Barack Obama.
The ‘N’ word was screamed in dozens of emails and calls. “If you are not a [N] then you are an [N]-lover” one caller said.
The word “woman” was used as an insult over and over again. One bitter respondent went as far as to tell our female editor that she is an example of why the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, should have never existed. Another told her this is why women shouldn’t be doing jobs meant for men. Scores of others referred to her with almost every imaginable derogatory, vulgar term known.
Obama was called a “rag-headed Muslim” or “Chicago thug gang banger” by many who felt compelled to target their rage against him towards us. Many times they included their contact information as if it was a badge of honor that accompanied the sentiments. Others hid behind the veil of anonymity with their sordid remarks.
Personally, I heard from more than one stranger this week that it was a shame my mother did not have an abortion. Dozens more thought I was born without parts of my male anatomy. Many told me how physically ugly I was. And the “F” word was used almost as freely as the “N” word in trying to describe my alleged personal support of Obama. More than one suggested my death would result from my misinterpreted pandering to political pressure.
I learned this week that hate knows no socio-economic boundaries. Investment bankers. Pastors. CEOs. Daycare workers. Nurses. Senior citizens. Teenagers. We heard their rage.
Hate also shows up where you least expect it. This week it followed Bible verses, sometimes even in the same sentence. It followed pictures of kids and grandkids. It even followed one of our employees right out of a potential rental property.
Hate also goes viral. In today’s world, information moves fast. Disgust with us came from over 30 states from people who alleged our support for Obama trumped our support for a free press. (Note: Anyone who has read the Free Press page over the past five years of the Obama administration would clearly see the weakness in this argument.)
Through all this hate, I did see something that inspired me. By returning hundreds of calls and emails personally, I saw the majority ask for forgiveness. I saw patience rewarded. I saw truth conquer fear and anger. I also renewed a pride in this newspaper’s staff to rise above. To continue to do our part to educate, enlighten and entertain. With that comes knowledge and understanding. And with knowledge and understanding comes peace. Peace conquers hate. And with peace comes joy.
Freedom of speech and of the press remains paramount, but learning to love one another remains essential for our city, our state and our country.