This isn’t about romantic love – I understand that as well as anyone: laugh together as often as possible; have your own life; choose to create this third thing between you that you each nurture daily. Kahlil Gibran says it so well in The Prophet:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
I’m talking about that “love one another” thing that is in all of the religions (whether or not it’s followed) and even into New Age, and those of us who claim spirit vs dogma. I don’t know about that love.
Yes, I understand the concept that we are all a part of a whole, and that being extensions of the All, we should love one another. And to do that we must first love ourself, our body, our life. How many of us are there? If not even there, how do we extend true love to others? And how do I claim that “part of me” that is acting in ways that is diametrically opposed to *everything* “I” believe in?
Let’s get down to it. How do I love police officers who are committing the atrocities ( North Miami, Minnesota, others: timetable) I see on cell phone videos? Because you know this was going on before cell phones, and you know we aren’t seeing all of it now. Having been on the receiving end of a black eye, bruised back and handcuffs so tight that my wrists were swollen for a week when I was in my twenties, and a no-warrant break-in of my home by police from 3 counties in my 50s, I am very aware of what power can do when it goes wrong. But I am not talking about power, I am talking about love. And how do I love politicians bent on their own personal power [so I guess I am talking about power] to the detriment of the whole? And how do I love the people in the systemic structures that support that?
I understand “love” in the abstract, but I don’t understand love in the concrete in these instances.
How do I love those people who are working daily to protect the bad apples and who work daily to create fear and divisiveness?
I have begun to study hate, genocide, mass murder to understand. I read:
Those who identify with a charismatic, divisive leader are more likely to buy into his [sic] us-versus-them mentality. A relentless campaign to make emotional connection with the masses was a central part of Hitler’s strategy..To those who identified with him, he was expressing their frustrations, anger, and hopes in an overwhelmingly powerful way. To those who did not, Hitler’s speeches seemed like the ravings of a lunatic. Rush W. Dozier, Jr., Why We Hate: Understanding, Curbing, and Eliminating Hate in Ourselves and Our World
James Waller, in Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, says:
Society is dependent, at some level, on its members developing a sense of collective identity, social obligation, and group commitment – all of which can be promoted by collectivistic values of obedience, conformity, tradition, safety and order. As we have seen, however these same values can, while promoting the importance of in-group identity, also easily evoke suspicion of, hostility toward, and competition with an out-group…into collective violence or a genocidal imperative as they are used to forge in-group solidarity…
An excessively salient cultural model of authority orientation… cultivates individuals who enjoy obeying authority and exercising power over those below them. Such individuals are less likely to oppose leaders who scapegoat, or advocate violence against, a particular target group…
…anytime we can alter who is a “we” and who is a “they,” we can undermine a contributing force to the social death of victims.
How can I undermine the we/they dichotomy when I can’t get past it myself when I witness those who stir up hate and fear on purpose and those who use their power and uniform as power over people they are supposed to protect? I do not understand that love.
In The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo (his website here), we learn that because of the “basic need to belong, to associate with and be accepted by others…[t]he imagined threat of being cast into the out-group can lead some people to do virtually anything to avoid their terrifying rejection.”
‘Images of the enemy’ are created by national media propaganda (in complicity with governments) to prepare the minds of soldiers and citizens to hate those who fit the new [latest] category ‘your enemy.’ Such mental conditioning is a soldier’s most potent weapon. Without it, he might never put another young man in the crosshairs of his gun sight and fire to kill him. It induces a fear of vulnerability among citizens who can imagine what it would be like to be dominated by that enemy. That fear becomes morphed into hatred and a willingness to take hostile action.
Zimbardo continues: “One of the most critical, least acknowledged contributors to evil goes beyond the protagonists of harm to the silent chorus who look but do not see, who hear but do not listen…the more people who witness an emergency, the less likely any of them wil intervene to help…because one denies the seriousness of the situation, fears doing the wrong thing and looking stupid or worries about the costs of getting involved.”
What I don’t understand about love is how I can not become a silent, deaf witness to travesty and still love the perpetrators. Is is a thing only for saints? I, imperfect human that I am, am so far away from this type of love that I may never understand it.
While these books have outlined the what and why of hate and genocide, they only hint at how one might prevent it ( here is Zimbardo’s 10-step program of resistance)- and it starts with finding like minded people.
How do you react in the face of this? Personally, I am listening for others with whom I can join, who want to change the status quo, and who perhaps are further along the path than I am. And taking the good suggestion of a FB/high school friend who says: smile at someone, be kind in some action [especially if you don’t want to be], let another car in front of you….those small acts that will never wind up on social media but with which we create our day to day life.
And I hold a space for this love I don’t understand. I am willing to learn that it is possible. I am watching for models (where I can be true to myself and also grow into a bigger self at the same time).
I hope this didn’t ramble too much – I’m trying to make sense of something that makes no sense to me. Happy to have you along for the ride. Would love to hear your thoughts. Maybe all of us together can figure this out – or maybe you already have and can share with me. Thanks in advance!