During one of my frequent pondering sessions over Why Are People Like That (and this one may or may not have been drug-induced), I came to understand a piece of the puzzle, I think.
Why are there white supremacists and nazis? Why in fuck's sake would you want to hate people so much over shit like the color of their skin or what religion they follow, to the point that you'll reach for the most bullshit and debunked psuedo-science to try and justify it? Why put that much effort into hate?
Then I remembered when I was a young teen, depressed, abused, anxious, and miserable. And empty. I felt empty. It occurred to me (possibly thanks in part to drugs) that this country, the U.S., is so spiritually empty. And I don't mean we have a lack of religion. But large sections of that religious practice is so empty. I speak from experience. The Christianity I was raised on was empty. And considering how few Christians seems to actually go by the word of Christ, which is primarily to give all your money to the poor or you won't get into heaven, I'm going to assume that most of the Christian churches in this country are devoid of anything spiritual. I mean, we have prosperity Christianity, which takes a once very spiritual religion and turns it into nothing but a justification to hoard as much money as you can and fuck everybody else - the opposite of what Jesus would do.
Now, when I say "spiritual," I'm talking about a feeling. To me, spiritual means a sense that there is meaning to life, and/or there's something out there that's bigger than us humans and our pettiness. Or just that feeling you get in your core, a feeling of emotional fullness you get when you stop looking at the screen for a second and notice how the sunlight plays on the dancing leaves. Alternatively, when you stop being a snob for a second to appreciate that people use screens to find validation even in the middle of abusive situations, find friends, talk to loved ones thousands of miles away, etc. I, personally, need to get my ass outside more. But I don't think technology is to blame for our spiritual emptiness.
What is to blame is a long conversation to have another time. What I'm getting at is that when you're so empty, you look for something to fill yourself up. And I know by experience that hate will fill you up real nice. Hate makes you so full. It gives you something to focus on aside from your misery. It gives you a sense of purpose. An enemy. A scapegoat. And if there's a community around that hate? All the better. Suddenly you have friends. You have people who understand and validate you. Suddenly your emotional needs are met, albeit in the most toxic way possible.
In middle school, I just chose people to hate almost arbitrarily. Hatred of self-centeredness and more than a little internalized misogyny "I'm not like other girls" played into it. But I chose people to hate for the sake of hating them. I even admitted this to myself, although I wasn't entirely self-aware that I did it because I was empty and depressed.
This can work on the other side, too. Hating nazis will certainly give you all the same benefits as hating black people, but with some different results. Why people choose one over the other is more complicated, but I understand why people hate. I'm dealing with my own emptiness still, and hating rapists and nazis still fills me - temporarily. It's a lot better than hating random kids and wayyyyy better than hating oppressed people, but it's not ideal. I hope someday to find a way to be spiritually fulfilled and still wanting to help people because it's right.
For now, this new understanding helps. We need something to fill our kids up. A spiritual revolution? Maybe just some decent after-school programming? An educational revolution actually would be nice. If there's anything spiritually empty, it's our educational system, sucking all the joy out of learning.
We have a lot of work to do.