Like many other liberals, I woke up Nov. 9 feeling numb, dejected and lost. On Facebook, several of my friends lamented over the stunning defeat of “love” in one of the most consequential electoral and ideological wars in recent history. Even today, days after the elections, the hashtag #lovetrumpshate is one of the most prominent signs seen on demonstration grounds, marking its resonance with anti-Trump protesters. But what exactly do we mean by love trumps hate? As rhetoric, the slogan sends a hopeful message to voters that empathy, inclusion and optimism will overcome and defeat the intolerance, exclusion and pessimism that have been brought to light by President-elect Donald Trump’s divisive and fear-mongering politics. But beyond this abstract level of comprehension, how are we supposed to act on love?
We believe in love, particularly during times of social upheaval, because we are lured by its omnipresent, essential and ahistorical quality. Liberals vehemently projected the message of love because it offered us something constant to hold on to, a reason to believe and most importantly, a comfort that some things in life are to be understood by all. However, in the wise words of social philosopher Erich Fromm, “there is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started out with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet which fails so regularly, as love.” Love fails not because it is not ideologically powerful enough, but because of two fundamental reasons: 1) it is harder to love than to hate, and 2) we never really prioritized the mastery of love.
Hate stems from grievances and a lack of empathy, and as we have seen throughout this campaigning period, intolerant insults and discriminatory behaviors saturated the media spectacle, and both camps were equally guilty of fueling the divide we face today. It takes no effort for individuals to act on hate and attack those who stand on the other side of the line. Love, on the other hand, requires humility, patience and work. It is easier to label a conservative relative as ignorant or racist and avoid them altogether than to engage them in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. Love is about deconstructing your own privilege and identity, all while trying to understand what the other side truly needs and yearns for. This requires us to climb the empathy wall, to let our guards down and to step outside of our echo chambers. It’s about making a conscious decision to do something, which calls for a tremendous amount of effort in an era where penning a Facebook status is synonymous with political participation.
But perhaps more than that, #lovetrumpshate remains abstract because we, as a generation, never really prioritized the mastery of love. In “The Art of Loving,” Fromm argues that akin to any other forms of art, love requires one to grasp both its theory and practice. Most importantly, we need to make perfecting this art a primary concern in our day-to-day life. We hold on to the belief that love simply “happens,” that the ability to love is readily available and that during tumultuous times like this, love will find a way to keep us together. This is dangerously misguided and explains why so many liberals felt so painfully disoriented after the elections. If the goals and objectives of #lovetrumpshate were clear, love would have directed a path for us to move forward and fight for what we have always believed in even after Trump’s election.
But turns out, it is not too late. The agenda of love in #lovetrumpshate has finally been spelled out to us, and this is what we need to do in order to march forward. Elizabeth Warren, in a post-elections interview with Rachel Maddow, urged those who are upset with the elections result to protect those in our communities by volunteering. John Oliver, in the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” enumerated various nonprofit or rights-based organizations that individuals can donate to or support. The message is clear — to love is to take an active part in civic and political life. Instead of leaving the country, move to a red state and teach our next generation about acceptance and diversity. Rather than falling into the lure of passivity or hopelessness, go out, mobilize and make your voice heard. The next four years are not going to be easy — they will demand constant participation so that we can check Trump’s administration, and this allows no room for apathy.
This is how one expresses love, both for your community and this country. Love is a sacrifice, and it is not going to be easy. Make it a priority to learn love, and commit to it like it is your life duty. Finally, as a final reminder, love demands from you, and it is this very quality that makes love transformative and worth fighting for.