I remember a story that Lewis Grizzard used to tell, about the former Bulldog announcer Ed Thelinius traveling up north to call a Yale-Harvard football game. In the hours before the game was set to kick-off, a young Crimson student approached Thelinius and began chatting with the Southerner on life in the South, the appeal of football, and the intense rivalry between the Yalies and Harvard.
Finally, the young Harvard man got to his point. "Mister Thelinius, if I may be so bold to ask, for whom are you pulling for today: Yale, or fair Harvard?"
Thelinius thought for a moment and then growled, "Neither. You're all a bunch of d--n Yankees, and I wish there was a way you could both lose."
Right now, when it comes to the Middle East, everyone is losing, and it doesn't appear that anything resembling a "victory" will emerge.
I'm not a political science major, nor am I an expert on foreign policy, so I'm not going to try and give you a dissertation on why the tensions in that region run so high. But I will say this, because I see its faint echo in our current political climate:
Hate is too powerful a weapon for anyone to master.
Hate consumes. It corrodes. It takes the natural emotions of anger and hurt and reduces them to a thick, simmering rage. Hate can take a person and warp them, twist them into caricature of themselves that leaves behind no evidence of anything but the hate.
It can descend from the loftiest of sources - the noble aspirations of religion - and become a narrow point of view so extreme in its positions that only a few would ever embrace its message. It also comes from the simple pettiness of man, the nasty little fault in our internal construction that makes us angry when we perceive the world has turned against us.
It takes only a cursory reading of the headlines from the Middle East to know hate's legacy: violence, unrest, brutality, uncertainty, mayhem. I can't fathom what it would be like to live in such a place, to such a degree; when we speak of hate here in the U.S., we speak so often of a softer version, one that is armed only with words. It still wounds, yes; but it doesn't often kill.
The hatred that seems to permeate the air in the Middle East is not so benign.
I don't know what the solution may be, but I can say this: when men and women cease to see other people, listen to other people, the seed of hate is planted. Our country is currently watching the seed of hate bloom with this election cycle; instead of listening to one another, instead of pulling together towards solutions that work for all, we are pointing fingers and spewing venom. We are aligning ourselves with ideas over individuals, and when theories and policies are more valuable to us than the flesh-and-blood person across the aisle, we have arrived the point where murder in the name of ideology is no crime.
It is necessity.
It's trite, but the sad, tragic tale of Anakin Skywalker gets it right: when we give into hate we become powerful, but we lose ourselves in the process. And when we have lost ourselves, we have lost almost everything.
May we continue to believe that no power, no idea, is worth that price.