We began today much like I imagine many other touchy-feeling, social justice-y, liberal do-gooder families did: by reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. The littles and I gathered ‘round and read from the book of Common Prayer, but in an act of civil disobedience we read from January 15th instead of today. The 15th is MLK’s birthday, and it’s where the good stuff is. Our sweet educational moment went something like this:
Me, reading: “In 1983, celebrating his contribution to the civil rights—”
“Mama, hold on. Stuffy’s not supposed to be over there. I need to get Stuffy.”
“Two seconds, Rachel. You’ve got two seconds.”
Rachel grabs Stuffy then returns, satisfied. She and Stuffy settle in and I began again: “…. We also remember his insistence that the church exist as the “conscience of the state—”
“Mama? Can I have two more seconds? Stuffy needs a baby wipe.”
“No, Rachel, you may not have two seconds! We’re trying to have a learning moment here, darn it.”
Eventually we made it to the end, Aaron attempting the never before seen feat of climbing into my left nostril while Rachel alternated between caressing Stuffy with great love and swinging her around like a cowboy lasso gone wild.
What went a bit better than this sad (but worthwhile!) effort was the impromptu moment we had in the kitchen this morning when Rachel and I talked about dark skin and white skin and the miracle of love. Aaron, wearing his diaper around his ankles and in hysterics over the shuffling this caused, didn’t stop throwing all the low items off the pantry shelves, but Rachel seemed to be listening and, importantly, absorbing. And really, that’s all we daisy-picking parents can ask: that a little bit of our pacifistic hot-burning ball of ginormous love be passed down to those entrusted to our care.
We’re working on it.
Later, driving our dog Winston to the groomers where he would magically become slightly less stinky, I saw a great big sign that read, “Hatred has no cure.”
I almost wrecked, this bit of wisdom caused me to think so long and so hard.
I know a local church put this sign up. How do I know this? Because they put a similar looking sign up right by their giant cross display, which somebody has surrounded by symbols of other religions. (I think this is awesome: Put it all out there people. All of it). Anyway, I’m betting that these church folks had good intentions with this message. I bet they were saying hate is bad and love is good. But they sorely missed the mark.
I’ve hated. I’ve hated and loathed and cursed and even broke someone’s nose once. I’ve wished death upon my enemies, preferably of the slow and painful variety. I’ve acted on this hate in hateful ways, and felt it eat away at my soul. And still I’ve hated. Rolled in the crap-filled pigsty of self-righteous anger, ate at the trough of soul-killing slop. It’s addictive.
This isn’t the kind of hate that aims itself toward a person simply because of their skin color or religion. No, this is the kind of hate born of having something done that I took offense to. But no matter—hate is hate is hate.
And, dear church people with the cross on the hill, it has a cure.
I know this because I myself have been cured. I’ve forgiven the very worst of the worst, and I promise you that the worst really was quite bad. I don’t hesitate to say we all know what the cure is, so there’s no need pretending that we don’t, however cliche it is.
(can I throw a “duh” in there somewhere?)
Elie Wiesel said the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. C.S. Lewis said love’s opposite is power. Okay, sure. That’s some deep stuff, and I’m not saying it’s wrong, but we’re talking about the cure for hate, not it’s opposite.
Self-education helps too, as does removing one’s self from hateful groups of people, among other things. But those steps can’t be taken without the first desire, that first hot spark of love, to do and be something better. To begin your journey down the path of namby-pamby daisy-picking love.
But really it isn’t so namby-pamby after all.
It actually takes quite a bit of strength to stop saying, “But I’m RIGHT, dadgumit,” (okay, maybe only I say that), and start saying, “maybe I ought to reconsider…” And then do just that. You and I both know this from experience.
Frankly, I feel rather like an idiot writing about love. Like I’m jumping on a love bandwagon, because oh dear God, folks have been writing and writing on this forever at this point, banging their heads against a seemingly-unmoving wall. But I saw that sign sticking out there on a busy road for impressionable early readers to see, and it struck me as so odd a message, so wrong, that I just couldn’t help myself.
On the way to pick up Winston from his doggie spa appointment, I listened to a radio program featuring the author of a book, “Nothing but Love in God’s Water.” Before becoming the title of his book, this cool little assertion was (and still is) the name of an old African American spiritual. I agree with its point and think it’s kind of lovely, so I stole it to use here. This title got me thinking in a sort of shallow, bad analogy kind of way that when a group of folks turn up pregnant at once, or crabby, or whatever, some like to joke that “there must be something in the water.”
And to this I say: There sure is, and there’s no drought in sight. So drink it up. There’s no reason not too, other than the fact that for some strange reason it’s absurdly hard to give up poking a voodoo doll of yourself by claiming the glory of self-righteousness.
It’s been quite a while since I vandalized anything. Almost two decades by my math. But I’m thinking of taking up revisiting my teenaged years in an act of civil disobedience in honor of this day. If you Annapolitans drive down Forest and happen to see a big red X through the sign proclaiming there’s no cure for hate (followed by a link to my blog) I swear I didn’t do it.