As people in my circles have become increasingly alarmed over the rising tides of xenophobia and racism wash over the country I’ve been seeing the question, “What can we do?”
The answer to this question has been, “Vote.”
I don’t disagree that voting is necessary, or that removing an administration which has made stoking the flames of racism and xenophobia its go-to move is a good thing. It’s just not the answer for what ails us.
Winning an election cycle, after all, doesn’t do anything to address the real sense of despondency which is so easily been hijacked by anyone clever enough to point a finger of accusation in a convenient direction. All it does is win a battle in the struggle for cultural dominance, resetting the field for the next battle. Winning isn’t enough, and I’m tired of being told that this endless game of king of the hill is the best we can hope for. It’s exhausting, and it gets us nowhere. No one can “win” culture. The best people can do is beat the opposition down enough that they go away for a while, biding their time. In the end, the upheavals of cultural wars just repeat themselves.
But love, brought into this world through empathy, can do something better than win. It can begin a transformation through which the forces of fury and hatred and xenophobia are revealed to be the frauds they really are. It can help people see “the other” as people, worthy of respect and dignity, instead of enemies. Love can dare to step away from mic-drop anxiety, which masquerades as strength and confidence. Love can step back into neighborhoods, coffeeshops, bars, restaurants, and boardwalks and celebrate the wonder that is humanity. It doesn’t mean we believe we’re all the same, it just means when we encounter differences we’ll default to a posture of listening instead of hostility.
I’ve seen people mocking the idea that love is capable of accomplishing anything, but that mockery is a born from lies. Love is able to heal. When people see they are valued instead of patronized, heard instead of ignored, and seen instead of just looked at it is a balm for our very souls. It not only reassures us that we have value, it passes this value on and lifts others up. The rising tied of nationalist racism will never swallow the hope love ignites.
That’s why those who have succumbed to nationalist tropes are so scared of it.