In the 1990s, I attended a political conference in New York. The attendees from every state, like me, were eager to create a non-partisan, progressive approach to politics. The ideas we supported were term limits for Congress, more open presidential debates and federally financed campaigns, removing the incentive for politicians to start fund-raising the minute they began office.
These ideas still float in the ether with just about as much chance of passage today as they had back then. But hope floats, too, and one day, the United States might reverse course and perform liposuction on its pay-to-play machinations of government that once more closely resembled democracy.
At this conference, I discussed with my mentor my challenge with the rhetoric of the panelists. I agreed with their goals. I felt exhilarated being a part of something larger than myself. Yet, there was something missing.
In addition to exhilaration, I felt dehydrated by the intellectualism, grew weary of the too-long sentences using the latest jargon of social studies, political science, psychology. I wondered why a certain word was out of fashion.
Finally, one of the panelists said it. He used the word, love, out loud, and it all fell into place for me. I was grateful for this man who nailed the reason we were there: it was for love of country, love of democracy, love of people.
“Love trumps hate” was a campaign slogan in the last presidential election, but I imagine it was delivered with one part love and two parts needling. So, where is the love? And why is this word so rarely used in politics as a basis for problem-solving?
It is naive of me to think political strategists and branding gurus would abandon the negative chants, soundbites and talking points they are well-paid to deliver. It is also naïve of me to believe politicians would want anything less. After all, “fear sells,” and “if it bleeds, it leads,” etc.
Fear, of course, is the opposite of love, and it is what is driving Americans crazy in our current climate of conspiracy theories, hate of the “other” and reactionary fight response.
But just as hope floats, so, too, does love.
To balance the love deficit I feel in our dis-information age of loudness substituting for knowledge, where a lack of civility is rewarded, and extremism masquerades as patriotism, I don’t have to look beyond my local community.
I am so encouraged by the hard-working volunteers who lovingly perform acts of service, and the government, business and nonprofit entities that do the same. I remember, finally, that one thinks globally but acts locally.
Love is feeding the hungry, clothing the job-seeker, assisting the addict, housing the homeless, forgiving the misdemeanor, fostering the child, teaching the under-educated, protecting the environment, providing transportation to seniors, serving our veterans, creating jobs for the less-abled, saving a favorite restaurant from exiting the community, giving and delivering furniture to those in need, welcoming the stranger, providing medical services to the uninsured, writing off medical debt, working pro bono, protecting victims, serving the grieving.
Love is this and so much more.
Thank you, Hancock County and Greenfield citizens, government, businesses, and nonprofits that express love through all of these actions and more. To be reminded of the largesse of my community humbles and inspires me.
There are so many opportunities to give, giving people to lead the way, organizations to sustain the giving efforts.
I’ve often joked since moving to Greenfield there are more hair salons per capita than anywhere I’ve ever seen, but now, I believe there are more caring organizations per capita than I’ve ever seen.
And I am grateful.
Donna Steele of Greenfield is a member of a variety of community organizations aimed at bettering the city, including Greenfield Main Street and the Greenfield Coalition. Send comments to email@example.com.