Love is a Warrior
Not a Saint
After the Nazi march in Charlottesville, VA last year, when Heather Heyer was murdered, my inbox and Twitter feed were awash in “love trumps hate” memes, and videos gushing that there’s only one race — the human race. My friends — of all races — sent me stylized Michelle Obama quotes and John Lennon songs and cute puppies playing in the sun. Red, yellow, black and white … we’re all so precious in God’s sight.
I appreciated their kindness, and their efforts to allay my fears. But I felt uneasy, too. It was unnatural, all this saccharine-soaked love.
My newspaper asked me to write a special column, calling for unity. Calling for hope and peace and kindness.
I had no idea how difficult this small assignment would prove.
Because my words — always so measured, so even-handed, so focused on fairness — abandoned me. For the first time in a long time, my natural inclination was not to soothe, not to make peace, but to incite.
And every story I wrote had the same theme bleeding through.
Heather Heyer is dead. Last Saturday in Charlottesville, VA, she was mowed down in cold blood, in broad daylight, on…thetimesweekly.com
Not just for the white supremacists and their collaborators — although they were first on the list.
No, I was also enraged by every single person offering thoughts and prayers, or singing Ebony and Ivory. I was furious with everyone waving peace flags and wearing safety pins on their lapels.
I was astonished by the sheer banality of it all. Apparently, we should put our collective fingers in our ears and sing La-La-La at the top of our lungs, in hopes it will drown out the avalanche bearing down on us.
I wanted to line up all the do-gooders and feel-gooders and scream into their faces: Are you insane? We are under attack. This is not a video game.
I know — wallowing in anxiety isn’t helpful. A positive outlook is necessary in challenging times. And ordinarily, I’m hopelessly optimistic. Ordinarily, I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl.
I’m the columnist who wrote a dozen stories about racial unity, urging everyone to find common ground. To do unto others. To be patient and kind.
I’m the black mother who carefully taught her kids to love what Thomas Jefferson wrote and still despise what he did. To live with their guards up, but still believe in the promise of America. To absorb a million microaggressions and injustices, but still be able to say, unequivocally, I Am Not Your Negro (thank you, James Baldwin).
I’m the teacher who put my faith in the poetry of the Constitution. Even though it never meant to include me or mine.
Cue the universally misunderstood Martin Luther King quote: Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
Let’s ignore for the moment that King was shot down like a dog. Let’s put aside that once Hate is in control, you won’t be able to Love your way out of the concentration camps.
Where did people get this ridiculous notion of love?
Love is not soft or pasty or shimmery or mystical or precious or cottony or dusted with cinnamon.
Love breaks bones.
Love is not sprinkling moonbeams over pipe bombs or blowing kisses to Klansmen.
Love stands ankle-deep in a pool of somebody else’s blood or vomit and doesn’t flinch.
Love is not harmless or weak or timid.
Love is a warrior, not a saint.
I was forced — by my own words — to admit I was not writing authentically. That I was playing to the crowd and the clicks, instead of heeding my own natural voice.
I left the paper not long after. They were never happy with my work after Charlottesville. I began writing for the Resistance.
And for myself. Finally.
Thanks to Terijo for the prompt on Intimately Intricate: