Love Fights Back

There's been a lot of talk in the last week about the division and rancor in this election cycle.  From the left, I hear that we need to understand Trump supporters -- especially working-class Whites -- as suffering human beings with serious unaddressed needs.  People on the right talk about the need to support the President-elect and move forward together. Social media are filled with memes like "love trumps hate" and calls for everyone to move on and get along.

It's churlish to reject calls to love one another.  It's counterproductive to demonize Trump supporters. And, Democrats do need to figure out why Clinton lost the Electoral College, the latest in a series of defeats for the Party at both state and federal levels.

I get it.

I also get that much of what I've heard is a kind of cheap sentimentalism.  Calls to "get along" are often motivated by a desire to avoid difficult conversations.  They are offered to justify complacency and an unwillingness to invest the time necessary to stay informed and get involved.  And from the right, these calls are often a justification for avoiding responsibility for the outcomes of the election, which include the normalization of racism, violence, misogyny, and xenophobia.

Love won't "trump hate" unless good people take a principled stand against the misogyny that is at the heart of President-elect Trump's statements about and actions toward women.  

Love won't "trump hate" unless good people take a principled stand to renounce and fight back against the post-election wave of racially-motivated violence.  Good citizenship requires not only progressives but also conservative Trump supporters to protest the elevation of Stephen Bannon to a position of influence in the center of our government.  Trump himself may or may not be racist, but he whipped up racial resentment for months, accepted a KKK endorsement, courted fringe alt-right groups and activists, and normalized xenophobia.  His comments on 60 Minutes were a very small - and very easy - start on what he needs to do to earn the respect and trust of decent people on both the right and the left.  Not all Trump supporters are racists, but every single person who voted for him is morally and politically accountable for the violence and hate which is a direct result of his campaign and, now, his election.  Adults accept responsibility, especially when they win, when their side has some power.  History will judge Trump supporters by what they do next.

Love won't "trump hate" unless people who are against enshrining conservative Christian religious beliefs into law are free to speak out about how oppressive that is to non-religious Americans and Americans who are religious but don't share the same theological views (about 70% of Americans, total).

Love is not an easy sentiment. It is not an internet meme.  Love is not passive.  Love is not co-dependent and it doesn't appease those who would bully or avoid responsibility. Love acts with power and empathy in the service of core values.  

In this political season, love fights back, protecting the vulnerable.  Love fights back, championing democratic values and resisting demagoguery.  Love believes we can be better, that we can get beyond rancorous division, but not because those who are morally troubled by the character and policy preferences of our President-elect are bullied into silence by those who cannot tolerate principled disagreement.

Strongly worded political statements are uncomfortable to hear because they are calls to take action.  They ask people to risk being uncomfortable, to think about difficult things, to put themselves out.  Right now, these statements are necessary, because the heart and soul of our country is at stake.  

To call out oppression and demand accountability -- this is not hateful.  It's the instantiation of the kind of love worth having - love for the country, love for the vulnerable, love for the dignity and humanity and autonomy of women, love for those who don't share one's political convictions.

Getting along is only valuable if it is not bought at the price of turning a blind eye to that which is hateful, damaging, and small.

Love fights back.