The more important point about “-lover” suffix insults

The more important point about “-lover” suffix insults September 15, 2016

Right, OK, so we were discussing the alt-right habit of using insults that are not actually derogatory. Then I distracted myself with a discussion of the problems with attempting to use “-lover” as a pejorative suffix and wound up getting off track in what turned out to be an overlong pig-f–ker joke. (Slacktivist: Visit for the theology; stay for the pig-f–king jokes.)

What I’d meant to say before veering off there was that these attempted insults with the “-lover” suffix are quite telling. They’re also quite offensive — deliberately so. (Even though they’re often accompanied by a fierce rejection of all the terms appropriately available for describing the use of such epithets and slurs. One of the recurring delights of online life is having someone sling a string of ethnic slurs at you because they’re outraged that you suggested they might be a bigot.)

The epithets and slurs in question being, well, things like “Jew-lover,” “fag-lover,” and “nigger-lover.” This is language that was, until very recently, noncontroversially regarded as “deplorable.”

And yes, the Venn diagram between those who have directed those “insults” toward me and those who have also called me an “SJW” has a very, very large overlapping oval in the middle of it.

To be generous, it’s likely that this colors my response to the tiny waning crescent of anti-SJW folks who haven’t (yet) also employed these other terms. That may be particularly unfair to the even-tinier sliver of those who don’t even seem like they want to say such things and desperately wish they’d be allowed to. So let me be clear: Those folks shouldn’t be deemed guilty by association. They should not be judged according to what others have said and they have not. But they can — and must — be judged for their willingness and eagerness to choose to ally themselves with their less verbally cautious teammates.

Anyway, the point is that these “-lover” insults are not any kind of insult at all. Despite their deliberate attempt to include harshly derogatory slurs, all they manage to communicate is the “accusation” that someone loves — that they love Jewish people, black people, LGBT people.

And, well, that’s what everyone is supposed to do. If you’re not, say, a deplorable Westboro Baptist cultist worshipping a hateful god of hate, then loving others simply means you’re fulfilling your greatest potential as a human being and living a rich life full of purpose and meaning.

I appreciate that these “insults” haven’t been directed at me because of any actual track record of demonstrating such love on my part. I can’t let this go to my head. I wish that were the case — that I were being singled out as someone who was exceptionally loving toward his Jewish, LGBT and black neighbors, someone shaped and defined by that love.

But, of course, that’s not what’s going on when they hurl these attempted insults. Even though these words were fired in my direction, these folks weren’t really talking about me at all, but about themselves. They were saying “This is who I am because this is who I hate, and who I hate defines who I am.”

That’s a horrible way to go through life, and it would be pitiably wretched — if not for the very long trail of bodies and tangible harm this hateful ideology has left behind it.

But even though these “insults” weren’t something I particularly earned, I still hear them as a challenge to be worthy of them one day. When someone calls me an “SJW” and a “______-lover,” all I can think is that I hope someday to live up to such high praise. Alas, I am nowhere near as adept or effective at such love as I hope to be, or as I believe that Jesus has called and commanded us all to be. But I’m trying and I’ll keep trying.

So to my neighbors who have attempted to insult me with these honorable honorifics, let me say this: Thank you for the reminder of our calling and our purpose in life. I will strive to do better to achieve the great and beautiful vision you have described for us all.

Oh, and while I have your attention, let me also say this: STFU you miserable racist turdrags. I hope you find repentance and redemption, but I worry that it would require an epiphany of self-knowledge likely to be fatal to someone like you. May you spend your days surrounded by others whose spiteful, shriveled souls are a perfect, hideous reflection of your own.

(Someday I also hope to be worthy of the epithet “enemy-lover,” but I ain’t there yet.)


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