By Peter Schaller
I was seven years old when Jimmy Carter was elected president.
It was 1976 and we were all riding on that patriotic, bicentennial high; I even had a red, white and blue banana seat bicycle. Growing up in a staunchly Republican household, I remember writing an encouraging letter to Gerald Ford. I was sure that he would be re-elected, I wrote in my second grade scrawl, because Jimmy Carter was a peanut head. There I was, spouting off political hate speech at the tiny age of seven. I must have been influenced by someone or something in order to make such a derogatory comment about the man who I now consider to be one of the greatest champions of social justice of our times.
Now, here we are in 2016 and things have gotten progressively and exponentially worse. We have been through Reagan-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Obama-Obama and with every campaign we have managed to get nastier, dirtier and diametrically more divided. The current presidential campaign is one of the most disheartening displays of intolerance and animosity perhaps ever witnessed, in the brief history of the United States.
Admittedly, I stand quite to the left of the crowd, when it comes to politics.
I do not like or agree with almost anything Donald Trump has to say. I do not like or agree with almost anything Hillary Clinton has to say. I do agree with most of the things that Bernie Sanders has to say, but I also recognize that while he may be an admirable politician, he is just a man. Politics matter much less than the way we treat one another.
However, just because I would rather invite Bernie Sanders over for a cup of coffee on my porch does not mean that I love him any more than I love Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, or anyone else, for that matter. We have forgotten about love. We do not need to agree, or even to like each other, in order to love. We have forgotten about tolerance. Even when our opinions or our priorities may be separated by 180 degrees of incomprehension—tolerance leads to understanding, which leads to peace.
I see a lot of things on the internet that concern me, but recently I have seen an image orbiting in circles of fellow lefties; people who, purportedly, promote peace and justice. I will qualify this remark by claiming a certain amount of (blissful) ignorance about popular culture, movies and actors. In the image, there is a man in a tuxedo and a stately, elderly woman. The text says “And Donald Trump ma’am…” followed by “Just make it look like an accident 007.”
I can only assume that the image comes from a recent James Bond movie, but it doesn’t much matter. We are living in a world that is coming apart at the seams. Black men are being shot by white cops. There are mass murders in our schools, movie theaters and clubs. We are killing each other to feed our voracious appetite for violence. We talk more about guns, shootings, the NRA and death than we do about almost anything else. We cannot afford to make jokes about violence at a time like this.
It is perfectly fine to dislike Trump, Clinton, Sanders or any other political figure. We all have preferences and priorities. It is not alright to promote hatred, violence and intolerance—even if it’s just a joke. Violence, at this stage in our (in)human(e) development, is no joking matter.
Our communities and our country desperately need great moral and ethical leadership at this very moment.
We need courageous women and men who are unfalteringly committed to integrity, tolerance, understanding, responsibility and nonviolence. We keep looking to the political system and to politicians to fix the broken pieces of our society, but the problems we face are human, not political. We need human solutions and these can only be born of love—pure, unrestricted love. Picking and choosing who we love and who we don’t is not love at all. Love is limitless, or it isn’t at all.
The solution to this crisis of violence and hatred starts today, with each one of us. It starts by each one of us setting the example of unconditional love in our own lives. This means, especially, showing love towards those people who we dislike, or with whom we disagree—perhaps the greatest challenge of all.
And so, Mr. Trump, I love you. I do not agree with you and I certainly hope you are not elected President of the United States, but I wish you peace and happiness. We are all connected, intimately, and my well-being depends on yours.
Let us love recklessly today and every day forward.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak