I’m not sure that I met the height requirement for this American roller coaster, but I am apparently strapped in and here we go.
Let me just say that I believe love wins in the end. But right now love is getting clobbered. It’s like love is the Cleveland Browns.
The unique American experiment used the language of equality at its inception, which was absurdly false. With time, various social justice movements emerged that brought differing measures of hope and progress to those beaten down or discredited due to their skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Such progress occurred through acts of love by courageous advocates who put their lives on the line for their brothers and sisters. However, one category was rarely on the list of people to love, and that was a love for the people doing the beating or discrediting (i.e., “the enemy”).
But who in their right mind would propose loving an enemy when it is undeserved, especially when hate, resentment, and rage all feel so darn good? Well, there was Dr. King, but he was a rare bird. My Christian faith calls for a love of enemies, but it seems that Harriet Beecher Stowe summed it up in this little exchange in Uncle Tom’s Cabin:
“Don’t the Bible say we must love everybody?”
“Oh, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many such things; but then, nobody ever thinks of doing them…”
Regardless, we have spiraled into an awful mess. “I don’t love you because you are a certain category.” “Then I don’t love you because you are a terrible person because you don’t love people because they are in a certain category.” “Well, now I don’t love you either because you say I am a terrible person.” “Well then…”
It is a spiral leading nowhere good. Specifically, it led to this presidential election, and from what I see, there is no sign of this train slowing down on either side.
It is telling that this presidential campaign produced two “anyone but” movements (i.e., “anyone but Trump” and “anyone but Hillary”). Both meant exactly what they said. Both emerged because our (un)civil war led the two sides to offer candidates representing the ultimate middle finger to their sworn enemy: “We propose the worst person you can imagine to be the most powerful person on the planet.”
One side won. The other is apoplectic. It was inevitable either way.
Let me be specific. First, I am from Arkansas. Second, I voted for Secretary Clinton. It stings to hear what some friends say about “anyone who would vote for Hillary.” It is hard to imagine that someone can say such things and love me at the same time. Simultaneously, it stings to hear what some friends say about “anyone who would vote for Trump”—e.g., when entire swaths of my friends and family are referred to as uneducated, ignorant, redneck, and so on. It is hard to imagine that someone can say such things and love those I love at the same time.
Love is just getting trounced. Who knows, maybe it is game over, and if so, hopefully someone will learn a lesson from us someday after we are finished annihilating ourselves. But I choose love anyway. Even when it seems impossible, I continue to believe that love wins in the end.
To my friends on both sides who are understandably afraid, I humbly suggest that your fear may be misplaced. Instead of being afraid of those you believe look down on you or those you love—and maybe they really do look down on you or those you love—I suggest (to quote a president) that the true enemy is fear itself. And the antidote is love. Learning to love an enemy is incredibly difficult, but I believe it is the hope of the world.
So how might one attempt to do such a radical thing as love someone you have good reasons to hate? Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, offers this: “To love our enemy is impossible. The moment we understand our enemy we feel compassion towards him or her, and he or she is no longer our enemy.”
I say it is worth a shot. Categorically dismissing others is getting uglier all the time.