And, at the same time, I have been reading and writing and thinking about power and love and society. This love that I instinctively want to hide away and protect, this love I want my children to feel, this safe, isolated love – it will not help. It is powerless. Anemic. It is part of our problem. It is a defense, a denial. It separates us, and is a sign of weakness and selfishness.
My alternate instinct is to release the rage and frustration I feel about our culture’s unwillingness to think of, consider, act, and legislate with a mind toward the other, rather than just our own needs and the needs of people like us. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s having children, but I feel we as a country are more self-centered than ever before. We are citizens of an economy driven by the belief that our self-interest is what matters. We are competing with each other for scarce resources. If we get ours, somehow it will trickle down, out, or up to be the best for the collective. We will have done our part. That’s what capitalism has taught us, right? But, surely we are more than cogs in an economic system – more than economic citizens.
What about all of this flag hullabaloo? There’s a broad war of social values and ideals being waged but in the narrowest possible way because we no longer know ourselves as part of a society. We talk about Democracy and try to build it with an economy, not by practicing democracy and building it with a society.
I see it in curt interactions among neighbors on the sidewalk all the way up to the person in the White House. We want what we want. And, if you don’t want it, then fuck you. You’re wrong. I’ll get mine, and don’t try to stop me.
Our social bonds and identities have become so weak that we see codified rights and laws as the guidelines for society rather than the safety net that will allow all of us in a society to thrive and provide the opportunity for us to be our best selves. The law defines the basest form of ourselves that a society can tolerate and remain in tact. We believe we have a right, therefore we must. It’s not prevented by law, therefore, we should. If our neighborhoods and communities feel weak, this is why. It’s because they are. The social bonds have given way to economic and legal ones.
I am starting to rage.
So, now I am back at love, but not the love I want to hide away and protect. I need to find a love that has power. Efficacy. Purpose. A love that is generative and potent.
How do we empower love rather than protect it? How do we cultivate empathy that builds a society? How do we teach and learn that the needs and feelings and perspectives of others matter even as I have a right to my own? How do we teach our children that sacrificing of one’s own self is not weakness, it is strength? That the other is part of us? How do we teach and learn that love is power and the ultimate power is love?
We are missing something, people. We are missing basic human connection. We are missing decency and personal sacrifice. We have sold our souls to ourselves. We are consumers of our own propaganda, and we’ve lost contact with each other and with something more powerful.
I have not written myself into any answer or sense of clarity here. I am lost.
So, I will just come back to the words I wrote in reaction to a previous gun tragedy in Dallas, hoping I could empower, rather than protect, love so that others might also:
I love you.
I love you because today I feel lost and powerless and I need to love you. I love you because I need love this morning and it’s the only light I can see.
I love you because whoever you are and wherever you are and whatever you look like, you have within you the power to help heal this world, to help heal me or the other person next door crying through his morning coffee, holding his kids a little longer and tighter, attempting to drive to work through bleary eyes.
I love you because people I don’t know and cannot tell are hurting and need someone to love them.
I love you for the implicit value of love to our common humanity, to the common life force among us. Only love allows us to share this humanity and not hold it within, isolated, alone. Love connects us, opens us to each other.
I love you for your implicit value.
I love you because only love can create the world I want to live in, to raise my daughters in.
All I hear in my head this morning repeating over and over again are Dr. King’s words: “Darkness cannot drown out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drown out hate; only love can do that.”
In the spirit and hope of sharing some tiny light this morning to drown out darkness, spreading love to drown out hate: I love you.