In this post-election hangover, I keep hearing talk of a return to loving one another. Yet I suspect that’s meant as a look at me cry rather than a true effort of unconditional love.
These past few weeks I grew tired of political ads accusing the opponent of everything short of killing you in your sleep. I too want a place of love and acceptance, of true nationalism, but I also understand that simply swapping insults and attacking those who think differently from me is not the answer. We’re currently trapped on a pendulum swinging one way, then the other, with no real promise of a different direction.
It’s not a cliche that kids don’t understand hate, that they don’t see difference as a bad thing. It is a fact that we create the prejudice in our children, that ours came from those who raised us. We either embrace that hate and use it as our own, or we completely rebel against it and live a life differently from our parents in order to prove we’re “better.” But that’s the thing: No one is “better” than another and differences of opinion should never escalate to the level we see today, the level our parents saw, and pretty much the levels all our ancestors created. None of us started this life the way we end it.
To live a life of love for human beings would be unprecedented, since as much as we revere people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mahatma Gandhi, most of us assume we can’t achieve their brilliance. Yet, each one of those icons simply let go of their hatred and attempted to help people rather than hurt them. None were perfect, but each tapped into that same understanding my son has: Things should be fair and no one should be sad.
I look to my son a lot for sweetness, because that is what I miss most in adults. However, I know it’s still there in grown-ups by the way they react to Mr. Carter. The other day I took him to my doctor’s appointment, and as I climbed onto the scale I felt a tug on my shirt. My son had wrapped his little fingers around a portion of its cuff and told me, “I’ll hold on to you, Mama, it won’t hurt.” The nurse almost passed out in adoration.
I recently attended my 30th high-school reunion and noticed so many of us, men and women, made a point to tell the other how much we loved them. It was more of a return to kindergarten for all of us, not high school, because we just wanted to enjoy each others’ company. There were Democrats and Republicans in there, black and white, gay and straight, yet none of that mattered. We were just kids in big-people bodies who would rather talk about our first sleepover or a grade-school party than the things that divide us.
Love means exactly that, not a divvying out of affection to those we think deserve it. At some point a generation will have to decide to stop our self sabotage, passing the task of love off to the next generation, all while teaching them to protect themselves from the “other.”