“I hate her, she ... ,” I remember saying about a girl down the street whose name disappeared from my memory long, long ago.
Gramma heard me out. She always did, now vividly coming to me in a gingham work dress, highly polished shoes with stout, square heels, and a bib apron ... her graying red hair in rolls along her neck.
Her reply probably wasn’t a one-off. I suspect she said it with some frequency during my formative years, because I can still hear her words: “You don’t hate anyone, Patti. Hatred only hurts those who hate.” And, “Hatred erodes the soul.”
I remember this because, suddenly, hatred seems to be surfacing in Wyoming and Park County, and it has the potential to do more than harm the haters’ souls.
But there’s nothing sudden about it, is there? Hatred has been rising like a deadly American tide for decades, the individuals who preach hate against their fellow citizens turning into groups, the groups morphing into so-called militias, and those spreading out around the country, encouraged by no less than the man who could have been the “leader of the free world.”
Hate. I had thought our practical Wyoming people immune from its normalization elsewhere.
Like you, I’ve watched hate groups carry guns into largely peaceful rallies, killing other and unarmed people because of their color. Like you, I’ve listened to newscasts of rising tides of anti-Semitism and laughed about stories of antifa coming into Wyoming.
The last reminded me of that old Clint Eastwood movie “Any Which Way You Can,” and the scene where a group of L.A. bikers with their leathers and tats, wearing fright wigs, speed into Wyoming. They’re stopped by a patrolman who gets a good look. Then, he breaks down laughing and sends them on their way. They and their obvious ethos were that foreign and ludicrous to someone raised in the Cowboy State.
That’s the way it used to be. Not long ago.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer a laughing matter. This summer a similar group rolled into Wyoming from Colorado preaching hatred of our own people, claiming that some of us are being negatively influenced by outside forces and that peaceful assemblies and demonstrations may be guaranteed by the Constitution but are dangerous. They offered to train Wyomingites and urged us to arm ourselves against ... whom?
None but each other. And, we’ve seen it happen. We’ve also now seen neighbors terrifying neighbors because of their sexual orientation. What next? How deep into our souls has the hate gone?
We’re the Cowboy State. We’re conservative, practical and tolerant people ... adjectives that don’t coexist most places but, with our unique heritage, largely have here.
Like the state patrolman with the California bikers, let’s laugh and let them move on.
They aren’t us. Just, please, don’t let them become us. Laughter liberates and unifies. Hatred does much, much worse than erode our souls.