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The Hating Game

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By RALPH HARDIN

Evening Times Editor A s much as I tried to keep them away from it, all of my children ended up being fans of Barney, the lovable purple dinosaur who taught millions of American kids how to be a good person. And as annoying and saccharine as the show sometimes got, I have to admit there were often some pretty important lessons to be learned. I’m especially fond of the song that encourages the kiddos to do their chores… “Clean up, clean up! Everybody, everywhere! Clean up, clean up! Everybody do your share!”

And sure, that closing song, the “I love you, you love me …” one that I am going to go ahead and apologize now for getting stuck in your head, that was like nails on the chalkboard for many adults, but it did at least plant a seed in many a child’s heart to maybe, possibly treat their family, friends and neighbors with a little kindness. And I don’t care if it’s from a big plush purple dinosaur, the Bible, or from Mamaw and Pop-Pop, every kid needs to learn kindness.

Unfortunately, so do many adults these days. I guess for folks my age, it was Sesame Street and Mister Rogers who dispensed those kinds of lessons when we were kids, but it would appear that no matter what generation you’re from, there are a whole lot of folks who either didn’t tune in on the days those lessons were taught or they’ve simply forgotten how to apply them.

Yes, our society is lacking many things these days, but it’s not toilet paper or gasoline or some other material good that’s most lacking. No, today’s greatest scarcity is kindness. There’s a virtual drought of it. No matter where you turn, there’s someone being unkind to someone else, often for the dumbest reasons … or worse yet, for no reason at all.

And it’s a shame, too, because unlike skyrocketing lumber prices or the rising cost of ground beef, kindness is absolutely 100 percent free. You don’t have to pay taxes on it, the rich folks can’t hoard it all, and we don’t have to import it from other countries. You can just throw kindness around like glitter or dandelion seeds. But for some reason, people find it harder to understand than Bitcoin. People can’t seem to fathom simply being decent to one another.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Most people have no problem at all being kind to other people … people who look like they do, think like they do, talk like they do, dress like they do, worship like they do, act like they do, believe in all the same things they do … you get the point. Those people? Oh, I like those people. They deserve my kindness! Those other people? Oh, they’re not like me.

I hate them. That’s it, folks. That’s all it takes these days to completely dismiss, disregard and denounce a fellow human being. What’s that? You think (blank) is OK? Well, I think (blank) is terrible! That means you’re terrible! So, not only do I hate (blank), I hate you! And since we disagree on (blank) I can just be as mean and hateful as I want to, because you don’t matter, your ideas don’t matter, and the same goes for everyone who thinks like you do about (blank).

Oh and it goes both ways. You can turn that around the other way. What’s that? You think (blank) is bad? Well, I think (blank) is great! That means you’re terrible! So, not only do I hate (blank), I hate you! And since we disagree on (blank) I can just be as mean and hateful as I want to, because you don’t matter, your ideas don’t matter, and the same goes for everyone who thinks like you do about (blank). Everyone is just guzzling down a big ol’ glass of “haterade” like it was water.

You can go ahead and fill that blank in with whatever it is we’re being unkind to each other about today. It changes so often and gets so ridiculous I can’t even keep up. It’s it abortion? Is it Black Lives Matter? Is it COVID-19? Is it still the 2020 election? Is it health care? Is it immigration? Is it climate change? Is it pineapple on pizza? That’s right, it doesn’t even have to be important!

And the internet has just made it worse. Well, it actually hasn’t made anything worse. It’s actually just made it easier to identify all the terrible people in the world who think their way of thinking is the right way and everyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but stupid or irrelevant. I would love to find a Facebook thread where people are being truly awful in the comments section and put them in a room together in the real world and see how they react when the hate they are spewing is directed at an actual person with a name and a face right in front of them …

Actually, that would probably end in disaster. I think I’d just make them all watch “Barney & Friends” instead.

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