Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Location of Hate

Philip Kennicott in today's Post uses an anti-Semitic diatribe from Chaucer (currently being performed in DC) to talk about hate in Chaucer's Slurring Words:
"It's rare, today, to hear this kind of hatred speaking on its own terms, at least in public spaces such as the theater. Hatred thrives, no doubt. In this country, it is still permissible, in varying degrees, to exercise it in public against marginal groups: homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims. And even bigotries that have been discredited in public, such as racism and anti-Semitism, still flourish underground, on the Internet and in public, if carefully coded. But most of the entertainment industry, and especially the arts world, is particularly sensitive to anything that smacks of bigotry. In narrative today -- in fiction, television, theater and movies -- characters who deal in discredited forms of hate are either caricatures, or so clearly marked as mentally ill or morally bankrupt that they wear their hatred with all the subtlety of a black cloak on a silent-film villain."
[He goes on to argue that exposure to hatred as expressed in past artistic works, like O'Neill's "Emperor Jones" broadens our understanding and leads us to consider hatred "old-fashioned".]

I find this self-satisfied, smug, and rather young. While many forms of hate may have been discredited, new forms spring up like weeds in springtime. I forget whether it was the Post or Times that recently ran an article on liberal bloggers, featuring a woman who exulted in her hatred of Bush. On the conservative side the hatred used to be for Bill, now it's Hillary and the vast left wing conspiracy. And us middle-roaders hate those who dare to believe passionately.

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