I hate cushions. I don’t know why. I just do.
Don’t get me wrong. When faced with with a stuffed pocket of cloth, I don’t succumb to an overwhelming urge set fire to it or shred it to pieces – I just move it politely out of the way. I don’t have a problem with people who like cushions – that’s fine – free country and all that. I suppose it’s a bit like President Bush and broccoli.
The reason I’m suddenly pondering my relationship with cushions is that, earlier this week, somebody took me to task for using the phrase “I hate cushions”. No names: no pack drill. To be fair, what they took exception to was the use of the word “hate” in any context.
This set me thinking.
One of my uncles hated Germans, but – and there’s another tricky word – he had endured a cruel 1000 mile forced march at the hands of a retreating army that was acting as an agent of the German state. However uncomfortable that hatred is for those of us who have no comparable experiences and however much we think that he might have struck up a perfectly nice friendship if a German family had moved in next door, it was, at some level, understandable. Understandable in the way that the hatred of parents for the murderer of their child or the the hatred of a victim for their rapist are understandable.
“Hate” is a strong word for a strong emotion.
I do hate things. I hate cruelty and violence and tyranny and unkindness and unfairness and injustice and irrationality and muddled thinking and guns. And I make no apology. Sometimes it’s right to hate ideas and behaviours and things. Sometimes we need the emotional power of hatred to give us the strength to speak out, to stand our ground and to fight against hateful things.
Hatred of people is something different – a cancerous emotion that, if allowed to grow unchecked, destroys the hater and the hated in equal measure. God knows, you don’t have to look further than the News at Ten to understand the destructive role of hatred in our world.
“Hate” is a strong word for a strong emotion. It’s not a word that should be used against individuals or groups of people; but context is everything and I defend my right to hate and to use the word “hate” in appropriate contexts. We remove words from our vocabularies at our peril.