When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine’s Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression.

I don’t agree with Christopher Hitchens that religion and stupidity are hateful; I do agree that some human extremes of behavior deserve hatred, or, if you like, naturally prompt hatred, and that there’s nothing all that wrong with feeling this emotion if it’s truly warranted.

Peter Wehner, anticipating the departure of Donald Trump, urges that we avoid getting “sucked into a vortex of hate” in regard to him; he quotes from a King sermon: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

Indeed Wehner’s is altogether a religious column; he begins with Bonhoeffer and ends with Isaiah. Yet for people like UD and Hitchens, no purely religious appeal not to hate will persuade; after all, the religious/racial bigotry of some evangelicals and other religious has had a lot to do with making Trump possible. Religion’s legacy, in other words, ain’t exactly hateless, no matter how pretty its rhetoric of love and forgiveness. Wehner is free to choose among big-hearted Christians for the purpose of the column he’s writing, but he could have chosen among an equally generous basket of Christian hate-mongers if he wanted to argue the opposite of what he has chosen to argue.

So let’s decouple this from religion, and simply suggest that there are at least a couple of kinds of hate. Wehner has in mind hot hate, the kind that steams you every day and generates rage and self-righteousness and rejection of the humanity of, in this case, anyone enthusiastic about Trump. This hate – drawing on the language Wehner has used – is low; it is a vortex. It controls you.

But think of what James Joyce calls his inner “refrigerating apparatus,” his capacity to contain strong emotions while remaining emotionally controlled, and even cold. Surely our “disgust” and “moral revulsion” (to use a couple of commonly used descriptions of widely shared feelings about Trump) need not overtake and distort us; we can hold them thoughtfully and intensely; and we can certainly agree that they ought not extend to Trump voters. Every Trump voter I’ve encountered, talked to, and known (one of my neighbors – a dear friend since elementary school – is a Trump guy) seems to me a perfectly decent person. I don’t even hate white power Trumpians, having seen enough documentaries about them to feel mainly pity – for these are the true hot-haters, and they are eating themselves up alive.

Far from wanting to keep hating – hot or cold – on Trump, UD cannot wait to see the back of him, and indeed cannot wait to stop having his perversity dominate the news in a way that again and again generates intensely negative emotions in her. I have nothing good to say about Scientology; but I have always liked their phrase going clear. Someday soon, inshallah, UD will be able to go clear of a pernicious character who has commanded the attention of Americans.

In the meantime, what I’m okay with our calling hate focuses and organizes my otherwise rather scattered responses to our current president.

Above all, I hate this man’s cruelty. Liberals, argue Judith Shklar and Richard Rorty, are people who believe that “cruelty is the worst thing we do.” The worst – worthy of hatred.

What a bizarre – almost unbelieveable – fact it is that America has had as its president the very embodiment of extreme cruelty. We need to do a lot of thinking about how that came about. Think of Charles Koch suddenly deciding that his massively funding the vicious tea party was a big mistake. What was your first hint, man? But better late than never.

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