How do we respond to hate? Can those who hate be appeased, allayed or accepted for who they are?

In his classic book on the psychology of social systems, Failure of Nerve, Ed Friedman used the physical systems of our bodies as an extended analogy of the different systems that make up human society.

Friedman said, “All pathogenic (that is destructive) organisms, forces and institutions, whether we are considering viruses, malignant cells, chronically troubling individuals, or totalitarian nations, lack self-regulations and are therefore invasive by nature and cannot be expected to learn from their experience.”

Summing up pathological elements in social systems, he pointed out that cancer will grow until it destroys the host organism. That is both stark and startling when you realize he is talking about people, not just the cells that make up our bodies.

Any analogy can be stretched too far, but this one holds more truth than I like to admit. Some people cannot be changed. They need to be isolated, separated from the rest of the social system they are threatening to destroy.

People who hate do not keep their hatred on just one target. In the summer of 1999, two brothers showed their hatred by firebombing three Jewish places of worship, then an abortion clinic and finally a gay couple. None of their targets had done anything to cause their hatred. They were taught to hate and that hate grew into actions that destroyed and killed.

When people take delight in the suffering of others, they soon start taking actions to cause and increase that suffering. We have seen that happening to people of other faiths and ethnicities, to immigrants, and to the marginalized in our society.

As we honor the past of our nation, we need to be ever-vigilant about the health of our nation. We have the best chance of surviving cancer if we catch it early and act to isolate the invasive pathology. We can stay healthy by exercising our faith and love that overcomes hate when it is put into