There is a new movement afoot variously calling for love or understanding or cooperation. Sounds good on the surface. Loving people, caring for people, trying to understand people, cooperation with different people, what could be wrong with that? Lots. We live in a country where some animals have always been considered more equal than others. The categories are many , varied and changeable, but there are always categories of them vs us. Always have been, more than likely there will always be. Competition is part of human nature.
The first problem I have with this new love, peace and harmony position is that it is encouraging us to do what is the equivalent of staying in a toxic, abusive relationship and trying to solve the issues of abuse by loving the abuser. I am fairly confident that that does not, will not, cannot work.
The second problem I have with that is that it implies that everyone is at fault, that we should all simply find ways to love each other and get along. I was taught at an early age that hating someone, or considering them my inferior, because of their personal characteristics, their age, their race, their country of origin, their income, their sexual orientation or any other thing that might be different from mine was wrong and ignorant.
People who were not raised that way, or who have rejected such teachings are not going to be made better by love and understanding and cooperation. They are going to feel vindicated in their bigotry.
Love has to be a two-way street. For far too long Americans have tried to portray being biased against someone as having a different opinion, one that is presumably just as valid as any other opinion. However, believing, and acting as if some people are inferior because you do not like their personal lifestyle or characteristics is not an opinion, it is a prejudice. The dictionary defines prejudice as “ a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Note the word “preconceived.” As with any kind of notion that is preconceived bigotry is not based on logic, experience or reason, it is based in wanting to believe it because it fits with what you want to be true.
You cannot know all members of any group, you probably know fewer than 100. To make assumptions about “those people”, however that is defined, is abysmally ignorant, illogical, and just plain wrong. Love will not change that because you cannot love someone and look down on them or hate them at the same time.
American needs more love, there is no doubt about that. We need to love our country more, we need to love our neighbors more, we need to love our school systems more, we need to love our people struggling economically, with mental illness, with addiction, more. But, that love has to be paid for with reciprocity and action is needed along with that love.
You cannot conquer hate just by loving people. That is like saying you are going to conquer societal hunger issues by eating a cheeseburger. You have to work to make sure that before we depend on love to solve things we get rid of hate, bias, oppression, ignorance, prejudice and discrimination.
Then we can all hold hands and sing and hug. Not before.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident, Ohio and guest columnist. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.