My mother, Ann Vander Stoep, is a scientist, teacher, and author on the topic of public mental health. Over dinner last week, we discussed the horrific shootings in SC, and how the paradigm of Love vs Hate seems to be at the core of so many pressing issues that affect the mental and physical health of our nation.
Our consensus was this....There is absolutely no disease or virus more dangerous to our collective health than fear turned to hatred…and no remedy more monumentally simple and effective than love.
I invited her to elaborate on this message by writing an article. She indulged my desire to add a few flourishes. Here is what she wrote.....
A lot happened in our country in June. Arguably, the biggest game-changer was when survivors of the slain members of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, SC looked into the eyes of the dispassionate assailant, described their unspeakable grief, and offered their forgiveness. If you haven’t seen it on video, you must. Why? Because this event was living testimony to the power of hate and the power of love. We learned that in a hand-to-hand battle, love has bigger balls and stronger biceps.
Inspired by these Americans, we can set our sights as a nation on the good fight in which we must engage….to stare down hatred and wear radical love from head to toe.
Enlightened by the strength of our sisters and brothers in S. Carolina whose wives and husbands and grandmothers and best friends and sisters were murdered in cold blood, we have sight and compassion where we once were blind and misguided. With blinders off we see that distinctions like black and white, red and blue, Muslim and Christian are irrelevant.
Inspired by what we saw and heard in Charleston, we realize that the real distinction, the one that matters, is between loving and hating. With this recalibration our nation has a glimpse of the good fight ahead.
We can imagine what it might be like here were we to stop breeding Haters and make radical love our new MO. Look what happened last week in our nation. Hands were extended across “aisles.” Symbols of enslavement were surrendered. We were inspired to inspect our hearts and appreciate what happens to “us” and what happens to “them” when we hate and when we love.
We live within a system that encourages fear, insecurity, and greed. These harmful chemicals create a fertile breeding ground for hatred expressed as violence and prejudice. The Love/Hate dichotomy is at the core of every issue that keeps us pitched against each other, and it is our time to make the right choice above all else.
We don’t have to linger in the dark corners of Leviticus and Jihad. It is impossible to be both lovers and literalists. Instead we must keep our eyes on the prize, assuming the simple, radical, central assertion of Jesus-Moses-Mohammed-Buddha-Lao Tzu-Krishna, that transcends the begats and the slayings. Each teaches us to make love our guide…not submission or capitulation, but courageous, risk-taking, radical love that seeks justice and bears witness to truth.
There are Americans who will never be free to get outside of their own self-absorbed and other-hating heads, our countrywomen and men who are deeply entrapped in great wealth and/or deep fear. As we bear witness to love, the eyes of unrelenting Haters will glaze over with disinterest, suspicion, cynicism, or terror. Oh, well. We can leave the dead to bury themselves. We have more fertile soil to plow and plant.
We know for an incontrovertible fact that Mother Emmanuel Church will not invest in a new security system to carry out X-ray scans of people entering the sanctuary. We know for an incontrovertible fact that Mother Emmanuel Church will welcome into a prayer circle the next stranger who asks to join. Let’s take the radical grace of the Mother Emmanuel Church members and the truth-bearing and compassion of the surviving families of June’s horrific hate crime as a big, solid kick-in-the-ass.
Viewing the world through a prism of radical love will inspire us to take radical steps to reconcile with self, neighbor, and the stranger who dares to enter our sacred circles. More scales will fall from eyes, more remnants of enslavement will be surrendered. Watch the video. We’ve got the map in hand.
Who can argue with love?