We have a new President of the United States and, by all indications I can see, this administration seems likely to be a lot different than any administration any of us have experienced in our lifetime. If you are anything like me you are feeling very troubled by the coalition of ideas that seems to have been validated in the recent U.S. election. It’s a set of ideas that shares a common theme:
“You know what your problem is? It’s that person over there.
And if we get rid of that person, you’re problem is going to be gone.”
It is a seductive idea, a simple solution that would make things so easy if you had the power to carry it out. And if it were true. Unfortunately, if the answers to our problems were truly that easy, we would have solved them a long time ago.
There is one basic human emotion that all or our problems bring up. Fear. Fear of losing a job, fear of losing the life we are comfortable with, fear of losing our rights, fear of losing our safety, fear of having our power taken from us, fear of others using their power against us, fear of catastrophic climate change, fear of change in general, fear of things never changing, fear of others knowing how afraid we are. American culture puts a lot of importance on not being afraid but as humans we are afraid of lots of things all the time. The fundamental question is “what do you do with that fear?” Do you let it convince you to hide away and hope things get better? Do you use it to motivate you to enter the fray and fight for a better world? Do you let that fear turn to hate and lash out against others to protect yourself? Or do you find the courage to reach out and work together with other fearful, flawed humans to try to build a better future? Or to put it very simply:
In the face of fear, do you choose hate or do you choose love?
As an example, over 50,000 donations have been made recently to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name. This means Mike Pence’s office will be receiving 50,000 thank you notes from Planned Parenthood for his kind donation. I get the humor, but is that an action taken out of love or out of hate? Because the problem with actions taken out of hate is that they only lead to more hate. When you get hit, you want to hit back. You want to hit back harder so they know how much they hurt you and they don’t try that again. But that cycle only ends in mutual destruction. Choosing love over hate may sound like a soft, hippie, give peace a chance type of attitude but that’s not what it is. In reality it is frequently the strongest, toughest and bravest decision there is to make.
You don’t end terrorism by shooting people, you don’t stop police brutality by rioting, and you don’t change minds by yelling at them. If there’s a solution to be found to any of our problems it starts with looking the person across the way in the eye and finding the courage to see them as a flawed, powerful, fearful, intelligent, human being who is worthy of our love.