Thursday’s panel discussion on “The Rise of Hate” at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa was described in promotional material as “an emergency discussion.”
The topic apparently did tap a sense of urgency. In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, around 80 people attended the event sponsored by OU-Tulsa’s Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture — so many more than expected that it necessitated a room change.
Not surprisingly under the circumstances, much of the discussion involved guns. More of it, though, dealt with why people feel compelled to use guns and other weapons to commit seemingly senseless murders.
“We’re talking about hate,” said audience member Herman Motley. “We’re not talking about guns. We’re talking about people using guns as a tool to express themselves.”
Motley’s view was that many people are frustrated by economic conditions that have caused many to stop even looking for work.
“The real good jobs are going away,” he said.
Tulsa geologist Mujeeb Cheema, a member of the panel, said hatred is a “continuum ending in violent acts facilitated by easy access to lethal weapons.”
These violent acts, he said, are not a mental illness but a result of conditioning and the expression of subconscious impulses.
“If I am insecure in myself, I want to avoid hating myself,” he said. “Therefore I transfer my hatred and frustrations to people who are different from me. Hate and hatred flourish because of a refusal to be conscious of the self.”
Cheema said hate is “contagious” and “bonds the group of haters.”
Cheema and author Clifton Taulbert, also a panelist, said parental influence is key.
“We really have to be intentional,” said Taulbert. “When a young person is in our presence, we should assume the responsibility of helping that person understand what it means to be an American, what it means to be a good citizen and what it means to be a good person. Things don’t just happen by osmosis. We have to be intentional.
“Know yourself,” said Cheema. “Act on your best impulses. Know your children. Learn what they know.”
OU-Tulsa President John Schumanm, a physician and researcher, said Congress should remove restrictions on the study of gun violence.
“It would just allow some facts and some intelligence into the debate, because right now we’re just yelling at each other,” he said.
“There is a lack of love in our society,” said panelist John Pena, a native of Peru who has lived in Tulsa for 30 years. “It is a sickness.
“We are abusing this privilege, which is freedom,” Pena said. “We are forgetting how to love each other. If I don’t talk the way you talk, if I don’t dress the way you dress, if I don’t worship the way you worship, because I don’t have love, I start hating you.”
A fifth panelist, Connie Cronley, drew from her experience as director of Iron Gate, a downtown soup kitchen that became the subject of an intense dispute over its location and plans to expand.
Through those meetings, Cronley said, she learned how frightened and angry people can be toward those different from themselves.
Several panelists and audience members said they were frustrated by the lack of action by political leaders.
“We see the cycle time and time again,” said Schumann. “A massive tragedy, an outpouring of emotion, lots of thoughts and prayers, some discussion of actually changing policy, then, as time goes by, let’s be honest, nothing.”
Moderator Rodger Randle, responding to a similar comment, said, “It is a very valid question. Why have our public policy processes been unable to generate a response.
“We see these horrors in other places in the world, the system changes public policy in order to diminish the probability of such a thing happening again, and we do not,” Randle said. “Why don’t we respond?”
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