DENVER – It all changed for Kerry Noble when he put a face on the enemy.
In the mid-1980s, Noble was a member of the white supremacist group The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord, or CSA, and he walked into a gay church with the intention of blowing it up.
“I was within seconds of committing what would have been the largest domestic terrorist act in the country at that time,” Noble said. “But I didn’t do it. It was sort of an epiphany of coming to the realization that this is wrong.”
Kerry, 59, joined director Mike Ramsdell for a screening of “Anatomy of Hate: A Dialogue for Hope,” which drew about 75 students to Tivoli Turnhalle today. The film screening, which included a question-and-answer period with Ramsdell and Kerry, who appears in the film, was co-sponsored by the University of Colorado Denver Office of Student Life.
Ramsdell, a filmmaker from Flint, Mich., spent six years making the film, which explores the biological, cultural, ideological and geographical roots of hate and human conflict. He interviewed people immersed in war and hate, from the battlefields of Israel and Palestine to the theological divisions within the United States.
Much of the 86-minute film is chilling and difficult to watch, but it raises issues that Ramsdell hopes will “put a face to the enemy,” much in the way Kerry began to move himself away from his own dark shadow.
The 9-11 attacks and their aftermath served as the catalyst for Ramsdell’s film. “I saw my country get whipped into a fervor of ‘let’s go shock and awe the hell out of the people who did this to us.’ And the thought was simply: So where does this end, where does this stop?”
He said if hate was studied through divisional mechanisms – ideologies, geographies, economics and religions – the outcome would further the “us and them” mentality. “So what if we found a unifying theory, like what are the common mechanisms found in all of these environments?” he said. “I wasn’t looking for an answer, but more of an insight where we could begin a productive dialogue.”
The film moves through the biological and sociological elements of hate – fear, cultural conditioning and the shadow, or projecting individual fears and doubts onto another person – and ends with a message that there is hope amid the chaos.
“Anytime you’re in an environment of war, or violence or hate, you’re also going to find people doing incredibly hopeful and powerful things and understanding how they come to those terms,” Ramsdell said. “If we can do that (dialogue) we might not agree on everything, but we’re going to handle our differences a lot more productively.”
Kerry said his involvement with the CSA sprang from a desire to cover up childhood insecurities and feel a sense of security. The supremacist group became a way of releasing his pent-up anger. He ended up healing by spending time in prison and writing a book about his experience in a hate group. It took him almost a decade to transform himself.
“Hate is a conditioned deal,” he said. “You can learn to hate and you can unlearn hate. It’s easier to learn than it was to unlearn it.”
(Photo: From left, Kerry Noble, a former white supremacist, and director Mike Ramsdell talk about the film “Anatomy of Hate” and the issues it raises to an audience in Tivoli Turnhalle on Feb. 1.)