As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been thinking about love over this holiday season. Yesterday I wanted to write about how my ideas about love have changed over time. I wanted to think about what factors in my life have influenced my ideas of love.
Today I want to get to the heart of what’s really bothering me. It seems to me that love has become a partisan issue.
Since Trump won the election in 2016, I’ve gained a much broader understanding of how a person gets to the point in their life where they voted for Trump. But I was just as numb as everyone else when it actually happened.
Love Always Wins. Love Trumps Hate. Love Each Other Radically. These were the kinds of slogans I was filled with leading up to the days of the election. If that’s what my side was doing, then it seemed clear that Republicans were filled with hate. I was in a bubble of division that I didn’t know was really there.
Trump had a very strong showing my county. In my township. As the sun rose on November 15, I realized how very out of touch with my neighbors I was. I live in a great town. I love raising a family exactly where I do it. My neighbors brought up brownies and a bird feeder when we moved in three months before the election. They bought Girl Scout cookies from my daughter. Could all these people truly be filled with hate?
But my liberal Facebook friends, who were all #loveradically just a few days ago, now wanted to Shut. It. Down. Vows were taken. Proclamations were made. Anyone you know who voted for Trump, anyone in your family who voted for Trump, any person you meet in the future who voted for Trump: cut them out of your life entirely.
One such friend demanding political segregation currently lives in New York City, although she was raised in Ohio. I remember thinking, how easy for her to say. Those relatives who voted for Trump exist only as challenges at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her social media bubble is an accurate depiction of the tribe she built in her adopted city. Cutting Trump supporters out of her life is a theory, not something requiring action.
I spent some time thinking about the issue through posts on social media. I expressed my doubt that every person who voted for Trump was a monster. It was too soon for my tender compatriots, who quickly jumped in to defend a more aggressive political strategy.
As we head into Trump’s third year as president, this particular rhetoric has shifted but not simmered down. It’s not enough to denounce Nazi ideology. You must punch Nazis. Again and again, the left’s idea of radical love is defined through hate.
I have a much less nuanced understanding of what Republican thinking is on love. I suspect it’s become a sort of trigger word indicating liberal ideology. “Political Love” is handouts and open borders. I suspect and fear that the aggressive definition liberals have given love make it more difficult for a right-leaning person to consider it. The further we push each other away, the harder it is to come to an understanding.
I want to practice a more enveloping sort of love. I want to practice radical love. To me, that means showing love to everyone. I want to constantly seek out thoughts and beliefs holding me back from love.
That means being sensitive to the ways that we are different and participating in conversations addressing inequality where ever it’s found. It means challenging the first prejudiced thought that pops into your head when you see someone from a background that’s different than yours.
Too often, people like me have a picture that pops into their head. I’m a financially comfortable white woman with a happy marriage. When I think about people who need extra love in society today, I think about poor brown kids growing up without opportunity in the slums somewhere. I think about Americans all over the country who travel to mosques to worship instead of a church. I think about children who are kicked out of their home because of their sexuality or gender expression.
There are people in all of those situations who could need a little extra love and help. But to think you are a great person because you go out of your way to support brown people is just your White Savior Complex talking.
Radical love means loving Republicans. Loving Donald Trump. I’m serious guys. I’m talking about Ted Cruz.
Separating Nazis from their hateful ideology and seeing the person underneath. Loving them enough to try to understand how they could become so consumed with hate.
I am not and will never advocate that we tolerate or empathize with hatred. I’m simply saying that underneath the hatred is a person who traveled a long path to get where they are.
We said that love would win over hate, and it still will. But too many people are calling their hate love and confusing the whole process.