Saint Valentine’s Day: a minor holiday that no one gets off work or school, but which has both naughty and nice aspects to it. A day with long pre-Christian associations (sorry St. Valentine), the celebration has become an icon of love in the Hallmarkian holiday world. It is a welcome change to the weariness of winter that drags on around the northern hemisphere, reminding lovers and curmudgeons alike spring is on its way. A holiday of hope.
At the same time, an editorial in Saturday’s New Jersey Star-Ledger raises the ghosts of less pleasant times. The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is attempting to sponsor state license plates honoring General Nathan Forrest, first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. While pointing out that Forrest eventually distanced himself from the movement, state officials want to acknowledge his contribution to their state’s history. License plates advertise to the nation as a whole what states uphold as their most attractive traits. In a world where the Klan is still seething under the surface, with active groups in nearly all states, it is not hard to see that hate can not lead us forward. It has failed in the past and it has no hope of success in the future.
Among the most distressing, if not revealing, features of various hate groups is their outspoken adherence to “old time” Christianity. Religion is but one tool in their arsenal, but what makes it so deadly is that even “peaceful” religions such as Christianity have a violent heritage. The Bible can be used to justify genocide as well as rescuing the widow and orphan. Christianity has a long history of being used for political, often hateful, ends in America. It is a trend that is dressed up in its Sunday best for glib talk-show hosts and windbag politicians who claim that “old time” values (read “white privilege”) are what America needs. Do we really need more hate? It’s Valentine’s Day. Let’s give it a break on the rhetoric of hate for at least a day. Who knows? It may become a habit.