I do not believe love is the answer. I want to. But love, American style, is the kind of love I can live without. Like everything else in our culture, love has become politicized.
Maybe anti-Trumpers are to blame. After all, they used love to score political points. Those "Love Trumps Hate" signs were ubiquitous during the 2016 campaign. I witnessed many progressive rallies, filled with people preaching love for certain groups of people, but disdain for anyone who dared to be open to a Trump candidacy.
And many pro-Trumpers I talked with during the campaign laughed at those signs and declarations. Love won't solve the loss of manufacturing jobs or increase middle class wages, they told me.
But at least one conservative had used the word "love" to further his agenda, too. In September, when President Donald Trump said he would not extend protections for Dreamers, people who were brought here as children by undocumented parents, he followed up by saying, "I have a love for these people" and that he hoped Congress will be able to help them.
Fast forward to January 9, and Trump reiterated that any immigration bill should be a "bill of love, truly."
Dreamers appreciated Trump's sentiment. For many, this is the only country they've ever known, and they desperately want to become productive American citizens.
But a bill of love appears not to be. Two days after this remark, Trump held a second, untelevised White House meeting and, instead, in his allies' words, used "tough language." According to others, Trump even used the word "shithole" (or "shithouse," by some accounts) in an effort to drive a hard bargain on immigration reform.
Love is now "off the table." In fact, in Wednesday's hearing before the Senate, Trump's Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, denied her boss ever used that term.
"I don't remember him saying the word 'love,'" Nielsen said. "I remember him saying 'care.'" Secretary Nielsen actually said this under oath to Senator Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Never mind that her boss made the love remark in a nationally televised, bipartisan White House meeting.
It seems "love" is now a politically toxic word in any debate involving immigration or Dreamers, unless it's preceded by the word "tough." Maybe tough love best describes love, American style. Love the Dreamers, but they have to go because they have to pay a price for being here illegally.
Why not just leave love out of it? Give me cold, hard logic. I don't care if love ultimately defeated Voldemort in Harry Potter's world, love is clearly not the answer in hyperpartisan America. And since my cynical self is on fire, I'll take it a step farther. Love is not at the top of the list when it comes to our personal lives either. In fact, single Americans now make up more than half of the adult population for the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this data in 1976.
And community encounters? They're so... 1974. Back then, 61% of Americans hung out with their neighbors at least once a month. Today, and be honest: how many of you know your neighbor well enough to knock on the door, unannounced, and sit down for a cup of coffee? Pew Research shows less than half of Americans say they spend social evenings with their neighbors once a month.
I have grown tired of how we use the word "love" so carelessly. Either you care about another human being, or you don't. Love -- in its purest form -- is not weak; it's hard because it's selfless. And, as the saying goes, its presence is verified through actions, not through words.
So, listen up, politicians of all stripes. Unless you're willing to exhibit the courage it takes to truly carry out an act of love -- spare me the phony-fest.
It cheapens all of us. Not least of all our presidency.
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