Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Many of our inner conflicts are rooted in hate. This is why the psychiatrists say, ‘Love or perish.’ Hate is too great a burden to bear. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I thought I would take some time off of reading challenging stuff and just read some easy novels for a hot minute, but everything I pick up seems to tie into my love/democracy line of thought. For example: I love Mary Renault’s novels about ancient Greece, and I had previously picked up a novel about the myth of the Minotaur. This time I picked up The Last of the Wine and Fire From Heaven.
The Last of the Wine follows Alexias, a young Athenian, through the Peloponnesian War, the downfall of Socrates, and the collapse of the Athenian democracy. With the collapse came rejection of free thought, love, honor, and democracy–all replaced by fear and mob rule. The mob feared Socrates and feared his free-thinking followers.
The voice of Anytos, some while unheeded, came back into my ear. ‘He taught you a new religion, too, you say. I can believe it… he is impious; he is anti-democratic; in a word, he is un-Athenian. I am not the only one who has had enough of it. Only influence in high places has kept him from getting his deserts long since.’
It sounds too familiar to me. Socrates: bad (or sick!) guy.
The tyrants and populists of The Last of the Wine came to power inciting fear in the name of democracy. Renault captured the citizens’ bewilderment and terror as the institutions that they love and honor come crashing down around them. What I’ve been thinking about, and what I’ve been reading about, is the idea that democracy can’t stand on fear.
1 John 4:18 of the Christian Bible says:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
It’s a ways into this podcast, but Alain De Botton’s interview with Linda Tippett on her podcast On Being goes into the work of love– how love is an active verb within successful marriages. When I look at my own parents, I see that they prioritize their relationship over all others, treating it like a pleasant but imperative task. Small conflicts are either carefully discussed or brushed off with the security of 30+ years of trust. Consider the following exchange:
MR. DE BOTTON: I think that’s fascinating. I think you’re onto something huge and rather counterintuitive because we associate the word “love” with private life. We don’t associate it with life in the republic, with civil society.
But I think that a functioning society requires two things that, again, just don’t sound very normal, but they require love and politeness. And by “love” I mean a capacity to enter imaginatively into the minds of people with whom you don’t immediately agree, and to look for the more charitable explanations for behavior which doesn’t appeal to you and which could seem plain wrong, not just to chuck them immediately in prison or to hold them up in front of a law court but to…
MS. TIPPETT: Or just tell them how stupid they are, right?
MR. DE BOTTON: Right. Exactly. We’re permanently — all sides are attempting to show how stupid every other side is. And the other thing, of course, is politeness, which is an attempt not necessarily to say everything, to understand that there is a role for private feelings, which if they were to emerge, would do damage to everyone concerned. But we’ve got this culture of kind of self-disclosure. And as I say, it spills out into politics as well. The same dynamic goes on of, like, “If I’m not telling you exactly what I think, then I may develop a twitch or an illness from not expunging my feelings.” To which I would say, “No, you’re not. You’re preserving the peace and the good nature of the republic, and it’s absolutely what you should be doing.”
MS. TIPPETT: Yes. And I guess — I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of people this year. The truth is, more than ever before perhaps, in our world, we are in relationship. We are connected to everyone else. And that’s a fact. Their well being will impact our well being, is of relevance to our well being and that of our children.
But we have this habit and this capacity in public to — and also, we know that our brains work this way — to see the other, to see those strangers, those people, those people on the other side politically, socioeconomically, whatever, forgetting that in our intimate lives, and in our love lives, in our circles of family and friends, and in our marriages, and with our children, there are things about the people we love the most who drive us crazy that we do not comprehend. And yet, we find ways to be intelligent, right? To be loving – because it gets a better result. [laughs]
Love is drawn out of the private to the public realm. This really struck me because I did a Facebook Live post the other day on my local grassroots organization’s page about civil discourse, and I got 3 posts that had NOTHING to do with civil discourse. 2 were about how evil they believe Paul Ryan is (I referenced Sister Simone Campbell’s interview with Krista Tippett and her friendship with Ryan). 1 was a comment about how I was a “typical liberal.” SWEATERGAHD I wanted to bang my head against a wall at all three of these.
So I guess what I’m drawing from my reading and talking and percolating on the subject is that sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue, especially as we “typical liberals” already have a reputation for snobbishness. I had dinner with an old friend who is progressive in almost every sense– except her religious beliefs have guided her to the Pro-Life camp, and she voted on that single issue. This bothers me for a lot of reasons, but why should it? I’ve known her for 10+ years. I know her to be compassionate, friendly, caring, and smart, and she has now joined the Trump Regretters. I don’t feel any satisfaction about that, just sad that she got conned like so many other people did. Not dumb people, or racist people, or bad people, just people who are trying to make good livings and do right by each other. Being smug assholes about it won’t help the progressive cause in the next election.
In the mean time, I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is. Our volunteer committee reached out to the county chair of my local Republican party and asked if he and his membership would be interested in a joint service project with our mostly-progressive grassroots group, and he was very enthusiastic about it. The chair of our volunteer committee and I are also planning a trip to the local mosque to talk about how to best support the Muslim community in our town, and our group collected hundreds of dollars worth of donations for refugees who were resettled here.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)