By Sam Kargbo… My first mental encounter with the State of Florida in America was in The Old Man and the Sea, the novel that earned Ernest Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in1953, and was also largely responsible for his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The novel, which I first read in 1978,is about an unlucky old fisherman who had spent 84 days in the ocean without catching a single fish. Despite the mockery of many who considered him cursed, he was determined to venture out on the 85th day far out into the Gulf Stream, north of Cuba in the Straits of Florida to fish. His unlucky streak seemed to end on that day: his hook caught a big fish with which he fought for the next two days and nights!
He was wounded,exhausted in the struggle with the fish. However, instead of having a murderous instinct towards the fish, he saw dignity in the fish’s fight to free itself from his hook. Although he later subdued the fish, he could not take it home, as sharks attacked him on the way and devoured it. He only got home with the skeleton of the fish – its backbone, tail and head. Succumbing to the view that he was a cursed fisherman, he blamed the sharks for killing his dream of making a fortune from the big fish. Downcast and subdued, he abandoned the carcass of the fish and went home to sleep.
While asleep some fishermen and tourists congregated around the skeleton of the fish,trying to guess how large the fish must have been. His apprentice, whose parents had barred from fishing with him, got him newspapers and coffee. When he woke up, he had the company of his young apprentice who promised to fish with him once again. He returned to sleep, and dreamt of his youth—of lions on an African beach.
The young man returned, met him at his lowest spiritual ebb and emotional tethers, but lifted his spirits, making him dream once again. Sharks may kill your dreams and shatter all you’ve achieved through sweat and grit, but there is always someone out there to make you dream once again. Yes! Orlando and the state of Florida will dream once again.
Though I have visited America many times, the nearest I have been to Florida is in Atlanta, and the closest opportunity I had to visit Florida was when my kids, X Project, left me in Alexandria in Virginia (2014) to go to Miami to shoot musical videos. I am, however, connected today to what happened in Orlando, Florida,in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. Driven by hate, Omar Mateen, an obviously brainwashed, delusional 29-year-old American, invaded and opened fire in the Pulse –one of the largest gay clubs in Orlando, killing about 49 people, wounding another 53 in what has been described as one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
Mateen, who was eventually killed by a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT)unit of the American police, was driven by hatred of gays and lesbians to commit that carnage. This gory incident – one of the catastrophic consequences of hate, makes it imperative for us to revisit the sad theme of hate, which we have dealt with in this column.
Responding to the Orlando massacre, John Cook, a psychologist and associate professor at Yale University and an Op-Ed Project Public Voices Fellow, made a psychological examination of hate in the Time Magazine, which I would like to share here:
‘People who live with hate often see themselves as kind and loving people. They engage in a kind of bifurcated delusion separating the various aspects of their identities according to the different roles they play. For example, one can see himself as a caring, compassionate individual and act accordingly in that particular role, place and moment. And then go to a nightclub or a church or a school and take up arms against others and not absorb the split into their psyche. This disconnect allows them to separate rather than reconcile these disparate aspects of self. Individuals such as this often don’t see themselves as hateful or evil. Rather many of them view themselves as victims of those they actually persecute.
And hate comes in different forms. In the book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, German psychologist Erich Fromm differentiates between rational- and character-conditioned hate. Rational hate means there is a reason for one’s extreme dislike being directed toward a particular person. Character-conditioned hate means that you have chosen to experience and express deep loathing about a person based on some deep-seated prejudice against the group.
This election season one doesn’t have to look far to see and feel extreme dislike or aggressive impulses toward a person or a group of people—Mexicans, Muslims or LGBT people, to name a few groups. Some of us want to believe the superiority of whatever groups we belong to over others.
People with such character-conditioned hate often distance themselves from and demonize others perceived as different than themselves. They use excuses such as “they’re not us,” “they’re an enemy of morality,” “they will surely bring about bad in the world” to justify reasons for doing harm.
The danger in this is bias-motivated violence. It may be individual- or small-group-based, or it may become widespread like genocide. Left in its wake is bloodshed and survivors with physical and psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress.’
As we empathise with the Americans, let us reflect on our feelings about our neighbours or perceived enemies – those who do not share the same faith or moral valueswith us – to know whether we need to moderate them to suppress the Omar Mateen in us. We need to school ourselves to learn that by no fault of ours we are in a world peopled with people that are not us. We cannot try to do God’s job by trying to undo his job. Let us leave judgment to God and learn to respect other people’s choices and values.
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