Is it possible to be persistent to a fault? Sometimes I think that every time I tell someone that “You can hate broccoli, but you can’t hate another human being,” in response to their expression of hate for another person, they just roll their eyes and think, “There she goes again!” Or each time I tell someone to replace “hate” with “strongly dislike” in a sentence, they wish I would just shut up and end my crusade. Perhaps it is a sense of self-righteousness skewing my perception, but rather than feeling like people are annoyed with my persistency, I find them to be receptive. It leaves me wondering why, if people generally agree with me, they continue to use hate so lightly. And, if the average person doesn’t seem to be bothered by its usage, I wonder why I care so much.

We have allowed hate to slip into our vocabulary, becoming synonymous with dislike. Hate is a hyperbole of the words we have chosen to replace it with. It is an extreme not to be used lightly. When a hate crime is committed, the motivation behind the crime is to rid the world of the target person or group of people. It can be a physical elimination such as in the horrific genocides the world has seen, or a removal of ideas and opinions by striking intense fear in the people that once held them.

Either way, it serves its purpose. Wrap your head around that. When you hate someone or something you wish it was removed from existence. It would go away and never come back. Now do you really feel that way about that girl in your History class who does not stop asking questions? Or that guy you met at a party who you found really obnoxious? Probably not, but most people would not hesitate in saying that they “hate” them.

Not only is hate extreme, it is contagious. Strong supporters of the Nazi party during World War II were not saying, “We don’t really like the Jews,” but were instead working to eliminate them completely. What is even more remarkable about this sad and horrifying period of history is that prior to Nazi control, few people, even those who were prejudiced, would have considered partaking in the genocide. Yet either out of fear, or under the control of various forms of psychological brainwashing, many people assisted in these hateful acts. This is not just a problem of the past, however. The “catching” power of hate can be observed in many present-day situations. It made me so sad to see young children, who do not yet have enough information to develop their own opinions, expressing the hateful attitudes of their extremist parents outside an abortion clinic.

It seems to me that most of the time when we express hate of a person, we really mean to express hate of a particular quality, value, or situation. It might be the psychology major in me coming out, but when address our dislikes directly, we are more effective in dealing with them. If instead of hating people, we expressed our hatred of qualities such as greed, ignorance, and close-mindedness, we could move towards ridding the world of the qualities that are the root of many societal problems.

Some people would argue that it is much easier to allow the word hate to take on its new, less harsh, definition rather than trying to start a campaign to alter its usage. However, you will be hard-pressed to get me to believe that it’s ok to use the word “gay” to mean stupid, or that as a female, if I embrace and use derogatory terms I will be empowered. Hate is no different. In a world where much of our communication occurs via the written word, it is more important than ever to take care that our words are expressing our thoughts and opinions correctly.

So next time some girl corrects you about using hate in reference to another person, go ahead and roll your eyes, but take some time to think about what you are saying to the world.

Carrier is a member of the class of 2008.

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