Hate has a name, it’s me.


A hard reset. That is what it needed. For the world. For our nation. For the hate-mongers. For the defenders of injustice. And, yes, for our President, too. We are falling apart, our moral compass is not pointing due north any longer, we are becoming devoid of our values, losing our way, and causing fear where fear was thought once diminished.
I was sitting at home last evening, watching the latest news to find myself literally sickened to my stomach. I could not figure out what was happening to me. At first, I thought it was just the Charlottesville terror and hate being reviewed before me that stirred within me these awful feelings, or the sadness in hearing the words that were given by my President, or the infighting between the Administration, the media, congress, and the world at large. But, then, somewhere deep down, I knew I needed to get out and walk. I did. I began to weep almost uncontrollably.
When I was in high school I came out to my family. It was a very difficult time for them and for me. I was not sure at that point why I had the feelings that I did, and I was never convinced if God, or anyone else for that matter, would ever understand me or love me again, but I knew for sure that I was different.
Growing up in a strong and faithful Catholic-Italian family, and me, being the first-born son – the eldest of only two siblings – made it even harder. In this type of family, you simply did not come out! Instead, you got married, settled down, and had babies, so mom could become a nana! I failed. At least that is what I was carrying around with me, and trust be told, I still do in many ways. And, I was afraid.
I had a few good friends who did not abandon me. And I had many who just stayed away from me. But perhaps the worst were the few that came at me to threaten me, denigrate me, and cause me harm. They were the very few, but their voices and their actions were the loudest and most powerful; so powerful in fact, that after all of these years, in my living room, yesterday, they came back to me with a freshness that only the injured could ever understand. Yesterday, I was afraid all over again.
One time, I wanted so desperately to be part of anyone’s ‘in club’ that when I was asked to go to a football game with a group of boys I knew vilified me, I went. They picked me up, got me drunk, beat me up and left me at the side of a road some 9+ miles away from home. I was alone, hurt, afraid. I know how those who heard the President’s words feel. I am one of them, if not to their degree. We are one, and we are afraid.
I will never forget those feelings. I will never truly get to a place where I am not afraid. I thought that we, as a country – as a people – were doing so much better. But under the splendidly politically correct surface, we hate. Yes, Veronica, there is an under belly and it is us! Now hate is free to roam the streets again, but more terrible, to roam in the lives of those of us who fear and tremble when no one else is looking.
In our parish, we have many good and loving people. I can safely say that all our parishioners, who call Saint Miriam home, are good and honest and caring folk. We also have some ardent President Trump supporters and I have honored their beliefs because we are family. But I can also safely say that today even they are discouraged, bewildered, and non-supportive of these last few days. None of us want hate to thrive. We are Christians first.
Over the past weekend, a white supremacist rally erupted into violence, leaving three people dead and many more injured. There will never be room in our society for Nazism. That is the raw, unfettered, unvarnished truth. It happened in this country. The violence, the rhetoric, the intolerable speech, the inciting of hatred, and the harming of others must end.
Unlike many who will not state the name of a killer, in my homily last Sunday I stated the name of James Alex Fields, Jr., who murdered, out of nothing but pure hate, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. I told you to remember his name. Why? Because hate always has a name, and the victims of such hatred always have a face.
In the end, hate doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Those who destroyed lives last weekend were not born with hatred in their hearts. Those who, so many years ago now, took me on their ‘joy ride’ to beat me, embarrass me, and demean me did not learn that hatred on their own. Those who strung lives from a tree for no other reason but the color of their skin learned to hate. Hate is not born in us. It is always taught.
St. Francis once said, “May all through our gentleness be led to peace.”  May it be so, and may it begin with me.


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