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Unraveling Hatred

Updated on October 11, 2012

What Malala's story can tell us

Life is full of tragedy. And then it get's worse. The attempted assassination of 14-year old Malala Yousufzai in Pakistan as she rode home from school on a bus is just the latest episode of life at its worst, caused by human hatred and fear.

Yes, fear. Years ago, while doing counseling training one of our instructors told us that, 95% of the time if someone is angry, there's either scare or sadness lurking behind it as the real emotion. I think the same thing is true of hatred.

Whether it's lynching blacks or bashing gays or tormenting shy children on the playground, tormentors are filled with scare, mostly. The root issue may vary. A person may be scared of losing status, or control over others, or money or political power or popularity—the list is a long one.

But what else could motivate a grown adult to board a bus full of school girls, pick out the one young teen who dared to speak in favor of educational rights for women, and put two bullets in her head and neck?

One common response may be religion. After all, it's the Taliban that fostered the attack and is boasting to try to kill this young girl again—if she survives and is ever in public again. The same nightmare existence haunted Salman Rushdie for a decade, as he details in his latest book. But religion isn't to blame, at least not in large measure. Religious extremists are to blame, yes, but religion isn't really at fault.

Hatred is, a word that combines "sorrow" and "grief" and "trouble" and "pain" and "anger" with words like "state or condition" and "advise" and "rule," according to an etymological dictionary. There is something in the human psyche that is triggered whenever what we treasure is threatened. Fortunately most of us know how to deal with loss and scare in more rational and measured ways.

The shooting of Malala this week is another wake-up call to responsibility for all those who stand for decency and freedom of expression and the right (and privilege) related to knowing things. Many in near-eastern and western societies have spoken out already. We need to keep doing so. Otherwise, the haters will win, and the rest of us will all lose. There's too much at stake for humanity to let the haters win.


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