I’ve been called a lot of names over the years – some of them printable. When I was younger, this kind of low-life criticism stumbled me a bit, but I got used to it. Frankly, these days, I think, “Take a number!” This last weekend a lot of people did — over my Olympic observations on Friday. I say “observations” because despite what some (rather vocal) people think, I love the Olympics. They’re fun. I wasn’t bad-mouthing anything, just looking at it and (as I wrote on Friday) expressing a fair comment. The problem seems to be that while I was making the clever point that the Olympics have always been an exclusive club, somehow, in a fit of cloud-cuckoo-land logic, that got morphed (in people’s minds) into an anti-Olympic tirade. Oh, well! So be it!
Fortunately, however, the weekend wasn’t a total loss because, as I was dodging invectives, I discovered the term “hater.” I’ve seen the word before but only at a distance. Up close, it’s quite a bit nastier. In fact, hater is one of the biggies, like racist and homophobe. People save it for that moment when they realize they’re losing the argument and then let fly as if launching a verbal ICBM. It’s the accusation you’re not supposed to be able to walk away from. I’m still standing, but that may be just because I had no idea I was being insulted.
My mistake was thinking that, by definition, a hater is one who hates. However, as I found out, that’s not strictly true. Hater is another one of our contemporary Lewis Carroll words that means whatever in hell the speaker wants it to mean and mostly nothing at all. People who hate child molesters, for example, are not haters; whereas, people who mention Michael Jackson’s past are. And this brings us to the crux of what can make you or break you as a hater. I’m not going to go all Jeff Foxworthy on the subject, but a good rule of thumb is if you do not, as a matter of course, gush praise at everything that crosses your horizon, you might be a hater. If you reach beyond our modern two dimensional emotional approach to life and suggest that some things suck – you might be a hater. If you do not necessarily think that everything from potty training to particle acceleration is amazing – you might be… anyway, you get the idea. However, and this is where it gets complicated, being a hater is essentially in the eye of the beholder. It`s your audience who determines your status. If he or she (or in my case, they) simply disagree with your assessment (even if it’s factual) they can exercise their option and end the argument with: “Expletive you! You’re just a hater.” Suddenly, your knowledge and analysis of whatever subject is on the table is swept away by the insinuation that your intentions were motivated by hate. At that point, the best you can do is roll your eyes because — stick a fork in you — you’re done.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against name calling. After all, I’ve referred to Barack Obama, on more than one occasion, as a dolt and once, in the heat of the moment I called Richard Gere “His Holy Handsomeness.” However, there is a contemporary idea that you can cover up great gaps in analytical thought simply by calling somebody a racist, or a homophobe, or any other derogatory term that pops into you head – including hater. You might just as well say axe murderer. The implications are the same, and it’s just about as provable.
For the record, I don’t hate the Olympics, Jacques Rogge, the young athletes or the kid who carries the towels. In fact, about the only thing I actively hate in this world is rapini, a bitter green vegetable that can ruin a salad at fifty paces. Thus, the only people who can legitimately call me a hater are vegetarians or their humorous companions, the vegans. Aside from that, it’s all fair comment, folks. If you don’t like it, prove me wrong.