Like most people, I'm a big fan of love. I'm a pacifist at heart, and while it may sound overly simplistic in these challenging times, I do believe that all positive, lasting social change must stem from a place of love and compassion — not violence or anger. Love might not be all we need, but John Lennon was definitely onto something. I'd argue that love is like the baking soda for any social justice cake; without it, the recipe just doesn't rise properly.
Even though Valentine's Day is a corporate holiday we might want to roll our eyes at, I'm here to argue that this year, celebrating the power of love is more important than ever. In the past weeks since President Trump's inauguration, we've seen people band together — as activists, allies, and friends — in a way that we should all take a minute to appreciate. Those who showed up at airports to protest refugee bans weren't just doing so because of their political principles — they were taking a stand firmly on the side of love. And that's worth celebrating for what it is: a radical act.
As we move forward in this marathon of resistance, let's take a moment to recognize why love in a time of Trump is a radical act. If you agree, spread some love today — and tomorrow.
Real Love Takes Vulnerability & Humility
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2016
Although Trump clearly has a very vulnerable ego, his ability to be vulnerable emotionally with self-awareness and humility has so far not been demonstrated (at least that I've seen). Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in response, rather than more guarded, is a brave stand.
Real love means real vulnerability — not bragging about how you make the best plans, have the most money, or the hottest wife. When we actually love fully, it can be deeply uncomfortable, because it leaves us open to hurt and disappointment. Choosing to love anyway — even when it doesn't boost our image or ego — is a radical act.
Love Takes Patience
Too many on the left and centre-left show little patience for those who voted for Donald Trump https://t.co/Vtgre1g13S— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 14, 2017
Everyone knows that patience is not exactly our new president's strong suit. He fires off insults on Twitter faster than you can say "blood coming out of her wherever," and has literally circumvented consulting with government agencies before he signed executive orders that directly affect them. These are actions based in fear and haste.
Actions based on love, on the other hand, are patient. As we know from our relationships, love takes the work of cultivating communication, empathy, and compassion. What better way to rebel than to practice radical compassion during a Trump era — even towards those who might view you as an enemy? It takes immense patience to take a step back and cultivate love for those you disagree with. It's a skill Trump appears to lack, and one of our best tools is to be able to rise above.
Love Fights Cynicism
These are some understandably cynical times. You'd be forgiven for feeling like everything is going to sh*t and that nothing is going to stop it. Believing in the power of love, however, fights cynicism. Every time you tell your partner, friend, or a stranger you love them — or every time you try to practice extending love and kindness to those you disagree with — you are engaging in an optimism for what is already good, and what could be.
Love Means Vocalizing Your Appreciation
There is a lot to complain about right now, but there is also a lot worth appreciating. If you take time today — or better yet, every day — to think about the people you love and why you appreciate them, you will make yourself a more resilient activist and a better citizen of the world.
I appreciate and love my best friend and father, who have both been tirelessly fighting as non-profit immigration lawyers for years, during times when people were paying much less attention to the importance of their work than they are now. I appreciate and love everyone who showed up to protest and those who could not; every man who stands up for my reproductive rights; every person who sees that their own fight for justice and equality is inherently linked with all beings' fights for justice and equality. I appreciate them, and in so doing, find energy and motivation to love them back by doing what I can to improve their world.
Real Love Is Collaborative & Inclusive
Love is collaborative and inclusive. A Trump resistance will not thrive unless we continue working together — seeing that the feminist movement is inseparable from Black Lives Matter, that immigration rights are linked to LGBTQ rights, that environmental issues are tied up with animal and labor rights. With a president that has divided so many, loving in a time of Trump is about believing that human nature has the capacity to band together and rise above. It is an act of radical, inclusive hope.
Love Is Restorative
1. We should be talking more about self-care than we have been. This Trump thing is going to be long haul, so people need to pace themselves— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) February 4, 2017
We're going to need all the self-care we can get to make it through a Trump presidency, and love is one of the most important ways we'll get it. Whether it be loving ourselves and having compassion for when we need to take a break, or loving our partners and friends, love restores us and gives us energy. Staying in to cuddle with your boo, giving a card to a friend just because you love them, hugging your fellow demonstrators — all of these are restorative acts that remind us why we are fighting for our freedom to begin with. We are fighting for everyone's right to love and live in peace — and that means we must make sure to foster that love and peace in our own lives as well.
Love Fosters Equality
I would argue that real love is never fostered on inequality or domination (unless said domination is kinky and consensual, that is). When we choose to believe in love, that means applying that belief to all groups. I may care most about an issue like reproductive rights, but if I practice radical love, I see how my reproductive rights are also tied up in fighting for civil rights, ending poverty, bolstering education, and so much more. There is no single issue you can care about when you believe in love, because fighting for love means believing that all beings should be treated with the same kindness and respect as you would extend your own family.
Real Love Takes Empathy
So many of our issues boil down, at their root, to a lack of empathy for The Other. As progressives, we may think that we have more empathy than conservatives who seek to strip the Other of certain rights, but in so other-ing our opposition, we are being hypocritical. What if we tried, even just as a mental exercise, to foster love and empathy even for those we most disagree with?
If you really want to go for it, you could even try feeling your own capacity to extend love to Trump himself. What happens when you imagine what motivates him, the original wound behind all the self-aggrandizing behavior and need to dominate? Can you feel compassion for him, if even for a moment? Trying to keep in mind the child in all of us (something not particularly hard to do in this case) is potentially very useful for us as activists. That's not to say we excuse his behavior, or anyone who seeks to fight against love, in the slightest. But if we can try to comprehend these behaviors from a place of radical compassion, we will be all the stronger as a movement for it.
Love Is Something No One Can Take From Us
Even activists who have spent years in jail will tell you this is true. Your freedom and rights can be stripped away, but no one can shut your heart off from loving except for you. Remembering that, and attending to that muscle of love, is an act of nothing less than radical resistance.
When you feel powerless over everything that is happening in the world, you can remember that it is always in your power to make choices on the side of love. You can adopt a diet of non-harm; you can become a more conscious consumer; you can compliment a stranger; you can tell your loved ones what they mean to you on the most ordinary day; you can love yourself in a world that tells you you're not pretty, smart, or rich enough. Even when things get dark, your capacity to love is something only you can break.
Love Is Not A Finite Resource
In our society, we tend to view everything as a finite resource. (Thanks, capitalism.) Your issue takes away from the spotlight on my issue. Your relationship takes away from our friendship. Break-ups are talked about as failures, as if there is a finite love pie with only so many slices to give.
In fact, real love works just the opposite. The more love you cultivate in your life, the more you have to give. With every relationship, we grow our capacity to love. With every stand we take on one issue, we expand our ability to emphasize and support other issues. With a president who seeks to isolate us from the rest of the world and make us return to a state of "greatness" that is dependent on domination and greed, one of our most poignant rebellions can be to remember that love is not a finite resource. The more of it we give, the more we have.