in light of Bell Hooks’ novel All About Love
Love feels so easy when you have it, yet this same virtue can feel like a writer’s block freestyle, a spotlight on your stuttering vacuity when you don’t. That frustration sweating your brows as you try to press happiness into your forehead. There is no one out there to love you, not as you deserve.
We always tie contentment, fullness, to the presence of romantic love, don’t we? But in doing this, what we miss is the abundance of platonic love that swells around us, even when we can only see a vacant place where we feel romantic fulfillment should be.
Whether we like it or not, contentment, in many ways, is tied to love. But love is so much more than the urge between two people to kiss, and we are remiss to reduce the culture of love to a single relationship. Love exists without limits if you untether it and has the power to spread happiness when we shatter the idea of possession. Friendly and familial love is not nothing, though we tend to treat it as such.
As a child, I believed that you could hold love for anyone if you spent enough time with them, and to a certain extent, that belief remains. If you spend enough time with anyone, parts of yourself will grow attached to parts of them. It’s human nature, this desire to connect with something, anything, in the people around us. To see ourselves in their faces.
I’ve always thought of myself as a loving person, capable of seeing humanity in anyone, but as I reached the years of my later adolescence, I found a fierce hatred inside me. A burning contempt for anyone who can not find love, or at least respect for the innate being of anyone else. Coinciding with the 2016 election in the United States, America’s red brand of hatred sparked a twin flame of hatred in me. I could not wrap my childhood brain around their blatant hate for everyone deemed “other” and the grotesque way they wielded this loathing with bible verses and the insistence on the superiority of their white picket fence traditional values. Ignoring the bodies who had bled out for centuries over these sharp pillars. How could they take something meant to preach love and kindness and pervert it into hate speech?
2016 was a year of disenchantment. For the first time, I saw the political spaces I had previously diminished as outdated stories of the past become concrete in front of me. They seemed to come out of hibernation, salivating and darting their forked tongue at all the progress in universal love we had begun to settle into.
As the years continued, my snide comment-sparked rants and pink-haired protest could be slated as a classic case of young woman’s anger and patriarchal society-hating foolery, bound to come back around as I experienced more of the world. Adults told me I would settle down once I accepted the way the world was and would always be; everyone was a liberal when they were young, and young is synonymous with silly and idealistic. You could look at my liberal anger in that light, but it really was, and is, an impassioned reaction to the clash of what I thought of human nature and its reality.
I thought the later half of the 1900s’ protests and calls for equality and an eradication of hatred had worked. From my place of childhood bubble wrap and social privilege, I thought we made it. We had gotten through the drudge and sickly sweet molasses of “tradition” and arrived at a time when these values no longer informed how we treated each other. I remember feeling lucky on the playground because I was a girl and free to trade skirts for pants as I pleased. If only I knew how shallowly this perceived “freedom” extended.
Southern California is only one place, and even in my neighborhood, the claws of conservatism were sharper than I could have imagined.
Conservative, the word sickens me, but what sickened me more was how I felt a similar judgment enrage me against them, how they showed me my own capacity to hate.
I believe so fiercely in free speech, in our freedom of expression, and in accepting and loving the humanity in everyone. Yet there I was, hating based off of a label.
It is hard to grapple with the hypocrisy of harboring hatred for people based on their hatred for others; both hatreds stem from perceived differences incomprehensible to each other. But at the heart of this, I discovered the distinction between their hatred and mine.
Theirs is seeded by fear of difference, of a disruption of the status quo, a willful ignorance they water with self-affirming rhetoric and religious justifications. While mine grew out of my love of humanity and the desire to defend and preserve just equality. It was their treatment of people who don’t fit into their small box of conservative comfort that prompted me to hate their actions with the same intensity they bestowed on others for their existence.
Hatred is only more than prejudice if its cause is delivered from an individual’s free actions and choices within their circumstance. The same can be said for love.
We must become disillusioned from the understanding that indifference to the lives of others equals compassion. If you are unwilling to get angry over injustice and rather evict yourself from either end of the conversation, you are not practicing love. You are not promoting happiness.
Love is not indifference.