Family is everything. And for the most part, I think I’d agree. I love my family. But there are some things love doesn’t transcend.
We could say that hate is one of those things. We could also say that disrespect is another. Worst of all, however, is when your loved ones are consumed by hate.
For the sake of this story, let’s call my family member Winston Smith and the object of their hate Emmanuel Goldstein.
Winston and I were never that close. However, I believed things were looking up.
After all, I grew up looking up to them. I was never as opinionated, but we enjoyed many of the same things. We enjoyed reading the same books and often had long philosophical discussions. We shared a religion, enjoyed learning about history and often held similar opinions. Politically, we were a bit different, but it never came between us. We agreed we were voting for corruption anyway.
Before our interests, though, were our life experiences. To say we both had rough upbringings is an understatement. Poverty, neglect, unhealthy relationships, isolation, insecurity, image issues, powerlessness. We were both well-acquainted.
As always, I filled that void with what I knew. Books, shows, shopping, writing, academic validation. Once in a while, I dragged my god into it. Like many others over the past few years, I tried to hold on.
Winston, on the other hand, took a different route.
Their relationship with Goldstein started the summer before the fall 2020 elections. More than anything, it was an unrequited love on their behalf, but they refused to hear otherwise. They were in love, or hate. It makes no difference a few months in.
“If you vote for the Party, they’ll help people like us,” they promised me. “No one wants you to know the truth. Vote for the Party. Vote to stop Emmanuel Goldstein.”
To each their own, I thought, though I found the switch odd.
All I knew was that we were both experiencing financial troubles and fear for the future. Like most of the world, we were in shambles. Yet, I stayed neutral. I had no faith in politics but respected Winston’s right to vote. I wasn’t opposed to different opinions.
Yet, their devotion scared me. I couldn’t recall a time Winston worshiped their religion the same way.
They woke up every day with the sole purpose of following Goldstein. Whether it was on the internet or in discussions, they looked for him everywhere they went.
They looked for Goldstein in the politics, conspiracy theories and morals they consumed. And in their free time, there was no freedom; Goldstein dominated our discussions.
Winston began to donate to organizations who pledged to keep hating Goldstein for them. They hated him so much that they fell in love with him. They began to live to hate. And their love became conditional as long as others promised to hate, too.
Winston and I haven’t talked to each other much since then. Our notions of love are no longer the same, and it’s difficult to hear each other in an echo chamber. I have no desire to love as they do.
As always, I’ve begun to fill that void again with books, shows, shopping, writing, academic validation. Once in a while, I drag my god into it.
Except now, I also mourn the character that Winston Smith used to be.