Love, hate: Stark contradictions

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life is often a mixture of emotions and experiences. They can come at the same time, sending mixed signals that we are left to attempt to comprehend. Love and hate are two of the starkest contradictions that exist in the world today.

We entered the museum on Friday, along with our nieces and nephews. I had been twice before, moved each time by the horrific events of the Holocaust. Like all the museums and monuments in Washington, we had to enter through metal detectors. Five days later, one of the guards standing there was dead; the victim of a hate-crazed man who shot him without provocation or cause.

What is it that could cause a man to hate so intensely that he would shoot a stranger? The killer’s note left in his car ranted about Jews and his belief that the Holocaust was a fabrication. Who knows what could have hardened his heart so there was no room for compassion or understanding.

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How ironic that an act of cowardice and hatred could occur on the very site of a place dedicated to the memory of millions that had suffered from the same cowardice and hatred.

In the aftermath of my speech on hate crimes many years ago, I was given the chance to see the many ways that hate manifests itself between members of the human race. I was overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of letters and e-mails that I received in the aftermath of that speech from people that had suffered hate and intolerance at the hands of others.

In my first speech following my retirement from the legislature, I was in New York City. The private tour of the Holocaust Memorial on Long Island still haunts me to this day. The lampshade made of human skin and other examples of human cruelty helped me understand just what hate-driven people are capable of doing to others.

The Holocaust Museum was built not only in memory of the millions that died during World War II, but also as a lasting reminder that hate resides in the hearts and minds of people around the world. Only by honoring the memory of the victims and pledging “Never Again” can we prevent the horrors of the past from becoming the nightmares of the present.

Steven Tyrone Johns. The name of a guard who was kind enough to open the door for his killer. Like those known and unknown who are honored in the museum, he was the victim of unrestrained hate. The name of his killer isn’t worth repeating. He will get no recognition here.

As moving as our visit to the Holocaust Museum was for my nieces and nephews they now know that the evil that led to such unspeakable horrors 65 years ago still lives in the hearts of some people today.

Future can be different

The same day of the shooting I saw the many cars across the street from my office. Vacation Bible School was back at our church with a bigger crowd than ever crowding the halls and playgrounds. What a stark contrast this display of love and tolerance of others was to the dark event that had just occurred in D.C.

As a child I remember gathering in the sanctuary for Bible School assembly. After the opening, we would march to our classes, following the Christian flag while singing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Today, Vacation Bible Schools are much more elaborate. The volunteers spend weeks preparing for the week-long event. Crocodile Dock was this year’s theme. The entire church was transformed into a setting that fed the children’s imaginations and prepared them for a time of fun and learning.

Songs, games, food, crafts and fellowship. Four generations of people interacting with love and devotion. What a powerful message this sends to the children of our future. Such events regardless of religion or denomination plant the seeds of love and harmony that will ultimately triumph over the isolated messages of hate.

I could have despaired over the events in D.C. on Wednesday. Instead, I take hope in the power of love shown to a hundred kids. We teach by example, showing children and ourselves the destructive nature of prejudice, apathy, bullying and hatred. The future can be different.

Time not well spent

The results of the latest study on Internet usage should come as no surprise to anyone with a computer.

The latest research from the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at University of Southern California shows that 28 percent of the American public is spending less time with their family than a year ago.

This comes just as Twitter, Facebook and My Space have become wildly popular. Despite being a recent convert to Facebook, I am nevertheless amazed to see that the active user base has increased from 100 million to 200 million people just since last August.

The average amount of time spent with family members has declined from 26 hours to 18 hours in just the past five years. That equates to one day per week gone forever from those we love most.

Come to think of it, I think I’ll go online and check my calendar. If I am free, I’ll e-mail Mary Lou about having dinner.