Love wins. Two words I see over and over again. Two words I have whispered to myself when the sadness I feel for the state of so many places and people in the world makes me want to vomit. A two-word declaration I am now finding quite problematic.
In the wake of havoc wreaked by individuals saturated with hatred and fear, many of us desperately scan the rubble for flashes of love shining in the light of day, fragments of good among what has been shattered by evil. When we discover one, we hold it up for all to see and gratefully declare it proof that love wins.
Or maybe that’s just me. As a white person. As a member of the upper middle class. As a woman who was stunted by an impoverished and rigid patriarchal upbringing but who could also afford the hours of therapy needed to heal herself and who was then lucky enough to find herself among a worldwide community of badass women who serve as her models and inspirations. As a person with privilege.
The temptation to quickly turn my eyes from the crumpled bodies of humans killed by racists using the power of a car or a police offer’s badge and focus only on that which gives me hope is strong. When the verbal and physical attacks of people who identify as Muslim are caught on cameras, my stomach churns with sickness at the headlines and I avoid clicking on the videos. Anyone with the decency to step in and stop such an attack is hailed as a hero, giving the eyes of white people like me something to focus on so we don’t have to think about what it is like to live in terror in your own country, to be assaulted for existing when you were simply trying to get to work or back home to your family at the end of the day.
Attending to the damage caused by hate, fear, and contempt unsettles me, makes me uncomfortable. Love, I am tempted to say, let’s talk about love. Let’s change the subject, the channel, the narrative to one more palatable to my privilege. Love wins? Yeah, that’ll do.
What I am wrestling with, though, is the realization that focusing only on the good which comes in spite of acts of evil can be a form of denial which dishonors those who evil has wounded or vanquished. I have to turn my eyes to the victims, to the bodies, to those brought low by hatred and bear witness to their pain, their deaths, their daily struggles to simply be in a country where it is not safe to look anything other than white. I must listen to their stories. I must grieve for them, not for the way what happened to them destroys my narrative of the world shaped by my privilege. And I must speak up and act even when it scares me to do either.
Love doesn’t always win. And when it does, it isn’t by default. Its victories over evil are hard-won battles in the hearts of those who could return hatred for hatred, fear for fear, bloodlust for bloodlust but make the gut-wrenching choice to be better than that. There is a body count in the battle of hatred versus love, good versus evil, and it continues to rise. The war takes a heavy toll on the spirits of those who go out and face a barrage of stares, insults, suspicion, and possibilities of bodily harm every single day. To focus on the simplistic idea that love wins can distract from the work of paying attention to and caring for those wounded by hate.
Love is powerful, don’t get me wrong. But we must wield it with bravery and humility, bringing it in tangible ways to those who know all too well just how powerful hate is, too.