Most years, I begin the year with a post entitled "The Obligatory New Year's Eve Post". I opted not to this year, because said obligatory post is usually just a cheeky, one-off comment on how last year went and where I figure this year will go. 2017 seemed deserving of a bit more depth.
A lot of us are entering this year with some trepidation. 2016 took a lot of our childhood idols (raise your hand if you're still mourning David Bowie and Prince). Our pop-culture took a brutal beating. Our economies left us nervous. Tragedies and travesties in Syria, the Philippines, Germany, France, India, and the U.S. - just to name a few - left us reeling. The American election gained worldwide attention, disappointment, and suspicion. And it ended with Donald F***ing Trump becoming the president-elect. We've seen a resurgence of bigotry, of bitterness, and yes, of hatred. How do we walk, head up, into this year, from a place of love when everything seems so...well...terrible?
We just fucking do, (sorry Mom) that's how. We insist on it. We demand it of ourselves. If 2016 was anything, it was a year in which we all had to face hatred and sadness head-on, and keep on keeping on in spite of it. We all got a good lesson on the fact that bigotry is alive and well, that justice is rare, that hatred often does, sadly, win, and that our heroes are humans, just like the rest of us. Some will take those lessons as instructions on how to build a wall, how to put up defences, how to return hatred with hatred. But the rest of us, those of us who have bigger goals in mind, will take those lessons as instructions on how to love harder. We will - we must - hold ourselves to a higher standard than we ever have, and hold steady in our love for this world, for our fellow humans, for existence itself. We must resist the urge to declare enemies. We must take some responsibility and claim some power and put ourselves in charge of the revolution. We must - and this is the hard part - not stoop to the level of our opponents.
I almost finished that paragraph by saying "in fact, we must not see them as opponents at all", but that's not quite right. We do need to acknowledge that people with opposing views often do seek to harm one another in some way. It would be silly and dangerous to sugarcoat or ignore that fact. But we also must acknowledge that some of what we read as hatred is actually just fear in disguise. We must keep in mind that where we see our morals and ideals under attack, our polar opposites do too. And, most importantly, we must realize that no minds have ever been changed, no fears have ever been assuaged, by being declared an enemy. If we choose to cut off all communication to those with opposing views, if we choose to offer knee-jerk responses and accusations of bigotry to anyone who sees things differently than we do, we may as well just volunteer to dig their heels in for them.
To love in an era of hatred is to choose to both speak up loudly and listen quietly. It is to look for solutions that do not just serve us, but serve our "enemies" as well. It is to stop seeing them as enemies, and start trying to see them as fellow humans with fears of their own. And, when that is not possible, when it becomes obvious that they really are enemies, to oppose them, to fight them, with dignity and self-respect rather than with an equal disdain and desire to see them suffer. To love in an era of hatred is, quite simply, to consciously refuse to hate, even where it may be deserved.