As many of you know, I follow a vast menu of news and blog sites on a daily basis; some present a pretty liberal perspective while others extremely conservative in their outlook. Some of these are print media while others are video or radio. As a radical non-partisan centrist, I am looking for commonality of thought and where we diverge. One thing that seems to be popping up increasing is the use of the word "hater". It seems that whenever a conservative makes a comment that a liberal doesn't agree with or seems contradictory to their argument, they almost immediately label the perceived offender as a "hater", and almost as quickly, the conservative begins backtracking as fast as they can while trying to defend (albeit almost apologetically) their remarks. Which brings me to my first observation, has the term "hater" become the new "racist"?
It used to be that someone was a racist if they, for whatever reason, didn't like another race (sometimes equally applied to ethnic groups). Perhaps surprisingly, the term didn't always carry the negative connotation that we think of now. There was actually a time were being a "racist" was something many were actually proud of; it meant they were proud of their own race or particular ethnic group. Since whites were the largest group in America, it was most often attributed them, but it could just as equally be applied to others too. In fact, it's not uncommon to hear its usage in other parts of the world with some sense of pride.
Over time, however, the liberal Left adopted the term for anyone not agreeing with their position on a given social issue. I suppose that this was because most of the social issues were directed toward or referenced specific minority racial groups. Reinforced by the media, the conservatives were put on the defensive every time the term was used. Eventually, however, it's overuse began to numb the public to its intended meaning. The shock has largely lost its awe.
What was needed, therefore, was a new term that was simple and carried an especially negative connotation, and so, it now appears that the word "hater" has become fashionable among the Left. Every time a conservative takes a position against, let's say gay rights, immediately they are labeled a "hater" without much consideration to their original comment or their reason for taking the position they did. From the Left's point of view, a conservative opposes gay rights...ergo...they are a "hater". See? Clean and simple.
Of course, all is fair in love and war, and apparently in political lexicology. During the late 1970's through the early 1990's as you may remember, the term "liberal" was used by the Right (often with the colorfully descriptive "bleeding heart" epitaph generally attached) as a verbal stand in for someone being "anti-American" or "Commie" (again, with colorful epitaphs like "pinko" and "fag" added for emphasis). Liberals were just as quick to verbally back pedal in defense of their position. I recall writing an article for our once great newspaper (March 29, 1998) defending the use of the term "liberal" as being actually a good thing in that it meant open minded and implied a willingness to examine carefully all sides of an issue while conservative meant nothing more than a desire to proceed slowly; that change wasn't always an improvement, not the backwards thinking Neanderthal it does now. Interesting how terms change their meaning over time isn't it?
I think if we're to understand each other, we need to change the tone of the discussion. We need to use less threatening and inflammatory words. Name calling really should be left on the playground don't you think? We need to at least acknowledge the other person's position. It doesn't mean we agree with it, or even that we accept it. What we are doing, however, is acknowledging their right to their opinion (however wrong we believe it is) as part of the political and civil discourse we desperately need in this country---indeed, the world---if we're to get out of this morass. So, let's drop the "hater" label and simply agree to disagree. Who knows, perhaps we'll find out that we may actually agree on the core issues. And if you don't agree, well maybe you're just a fat puddin' head!