Tuesday, March 2, 2010

hater nation

hater (n.) - A person that simply cannot be happy for another person's success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.  (UrbanDictionary definition)

We are a nation of haters.

You want evidence for this claim?  Just look at the last week in the life of American pop culture.  How many stories have you heard about the downfall of Tiger Woods and the ugly details of his travails with toothless Perkins waitresses across the country?  All because we love to see the previously flawless superstar to fall from grace.  TMZ is a website entirely devoted to hating.  American Idol hosted their first voter elimination of the season last week.  The tweeny-bopper vote likely skews heavily female and immediately dispersed with the two most attractive young ladies on the show.  This comes as no surprise as we all know that the collective cattiness of American teen girls is channeled in making sure that none of their friends are ever hotter than them.  Hating is the new bra-burning for a 21st century revolution in feminist anti-solidarity.  Finally, though I would sooner endure countless hours of waterboarding that watch even one episode of The Bachelor, I couldn't help but be subjected to a torrent of statuses, tweets and buzzes about Jake picking Vienna over some other person I couldn't care less about.  All of them dripping with the pooled resentment of textbook haterdom.

Hate actually... is all around.

And here comes your objection: "But what about you Mr. Hatier-Than-Thou?  You're the one who spent half your weekend torturing poor, defenseless Canadians about a hockey game you didn't even really care about.  You hate Canada."

First, I don't hate Canada.  Saying I hate Canada is like saying I hate candy circus peanuts.  They're unpleasant.  I don't understand why any sane, rational person would enjoy them and it somewhat baffles me that we even allow them to exist on the Earth.  But I don't really think about them that much.  Canada is just circus peanuts to me.

As Bomani Jones of ESPN's Page 2 and HardcoreSportsRadio helped make clear to me the other day.  Many other countries in the world hate us.  But we don't hate other countries.  We just don't think about them that much.  Take, for example, a story he recounted about some friends from Canada who live in Toronto and were constantly being asked if they were going to be seeing any of the Olympics in Vancouver.  Now, Canada is fairly sizable land mass, third largest country in the world to be exact.  Vancouver and Toronto are not exactly close.  It would take about a five day trek to drive through the Canadian wilderness to traverse the distance from one city to the other.  Point is, even if 90% of Canadians live within 10 miles of our border secretly hoping to become Americans by breathing the same air we do, they are working with a pretty serious amount of land up there (mostly inhabited by caribou, beavers, and guys with odd facial hair).  Quick.  Name 5 Canadian provinces.  Are there five?  Who knows?  Did you know Michael J. Fox was from Canada?  No, why would I?  But I am rather disturbed that we have all these secret Canadians living among us.  I used to be one of the few people in the world who found Ryan Reynolds funny.  No more.  (Plus, Canada gave us Nickelback.  For that, we can never truly forgive them.)

As Americans, we just don't think about other countries that much.  But think of how weird it would sound if someone from another country just told you they were going to visit America.  Can I get a city, a state, area code, zip code, something?  Visiting Los Angeles and visiting Montana are two different experiences.  You can't just visit America.  Everything is different here.

A few years back, I had a friend who spent a few months in India (and rather impressively still maintained the roster of his fantasy football team).  Now wherever he went obviously had computer access but I still don't know what city or province he visited.  If it's not in America, it's all India to us.  Is that narrow-minded, jingoistic, uber-patriotism?  Maybe.  But it's also our God-given, American birthright not to think about other countries too much.  Let them think about us.

So hate is a worldwide phenomenon.  Americans hate other Americans and the whole world hates us.  It's the circle of hate. 

So what can we do to stop the hate?

Ironically, though it is probably our generation of Millennials more at fault than any other for the continued foment of Hater Nation, I think we are the world's last, best hope to end it once and for all. 

Recently released research from the Pew Research Center shows that Millennials are more like than other generations to list "helping others in need" as one of the most important things in our lives.  Also, for all the talk of Millennials shedding the ethics and mores of our parents' generation, 72 percent claim being a good parent and/or having a successful marriage as a top priority.  Our generation is also less likely to feel like it has the strongest work ethics or most righteous moral values of any generation.  That is not to say we aren't competitive.  We'll likely be the most highly educated generation in history.  But we are humble about who we are and what we mean in the world.  We don't look to cast judgment on our elders or on our peers.  But we're also not trying to live in our parents' world.  We're trying to create one for ourselves.

Our generation is the most open to change of any other and we are also the most optimistic.  In a country whose politicians most often define themselves by what they are against instead of who they are for, we were swept up by a campaign banking on "hope" and "change."  And although we may have been a bit naive and now have been somewhat disillusioned, it is important to remember that our faith is not in politicians or businessmen or leaders but in ourselves to make the world around us a better place, to recreate the American landscape in our image.  The economic, political, and social movements who begin to understand that will capture the hearts and minds of this generation for decades.

But please, just stop the hating.  We can all just get along.

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