(This is not a posting about politics, or the Democratic Convention, even if it starts out talking about that for a second, so bear with me.)
After last night’s Democratic National Convention speech, Michelle Obama’s gotten a big spotlight around the world for bringing a topic up that we don’t often treat with the respect it deserves — love.
Her speech last night played on the heartstrings about the idea of love. Love for a parent, for a family member, for those who sacrifice, for heroes, for idols. Love. Love for each other.
For a few minutes, though, Michelle Obama talked about this love idea. This thing that, once upon a time, we’d maybe feel for those around us. We’d fight for it. We’d protect it.
Love. This many-hallowed thing of ages long forgotten. The one emotion that probably transcends every culture, and even every species.
I watched an episode of PBS’ Nature last week in which a mama grizzly was frantically running all over an Alaskan wilderness reserve searching for her cub. After a few minutes’ footage of this heartbreaking search by a mother for a child, she found it, and the joy was indescribable.
Love is a product of biology, not humanity.
So we like to think we’re all about love as a society. We’re pumping out music about it, movies that claim to be about love, and we exalt things like marriage and parenthood because they’re based, in theory, upon love too.
But we’re kidding ourselves.
We’re not about love.
If it bleeds, it leads. Be scared. Be very, very scared. Long for yesterday. Blame someone. It wasn’t me. Don’t trust anyone. Lock your doors. Don’t talk to strangers. Keep outsiders out. Money talks.
In the media today is this evil, awful loop of distrust, fear, hate, and judgment that keeps spinning and spinning and spinning.
Oh, I’m sorry, did I say “in the media”? I meant spinning, period.
I’m on the internet. I see the rhetoric playing out in reality. I see the lies slung, the hate bounced, the judgment passing. By people, not media.
If you think all our problems are born in the media, you got another think coming. They’re just the mirror in front of us.
I wish it were easier to see the beginning of it all. People say Hard Copy was the beginning of the journalistic decline, but Ayn Rand wrote a whole book around the concept of bad journalism and what it says about us. See that “evil” book The Fountainhead for her look at Ellsworth Tooey and pandering to the masses. That’s seven decades ago.
Did debased journalism begin, then society crowd around it like a mass of hungry onlookers at an accident scene? Or have we always been that shitty?
We obsess over celebrities. Oh, they’re famous and pretty and rich, so therefore they’re wonderful. Quick, cut them down with gossip and mockery!
Like children building with blocks, when it comes to societal successes, we look for the quickest way to disassemble that which we just built up.
Yet we’re better than that.
This same awful race who lives and breathes the TMZ religion and who conceived the inequities which plague class divisions the world over is the same race that has done everything from putting a man on the moon to discovering penicillin.
When we’re not confronted with imminent threat, we forget that we’re all in this together. We lunge at each other and bring words and weapons to spar with.
I recall Bush saying “You’re either with us, or you’re against us” and suddenly it seems we’re all living life in much that way.
In the hours after 9-11 occurred, for one brief, eerily shining moment, nearly the whole world was united in a feeling of love and empathy. I don’t think Americans realize that. The whole world felt the pain of that horrible, horrible day, and I think anywhere you were, this wave of despondency hit because we realized we’d just seen the worst that humanity had to offer.
And from that place, in the dust of the hours in the days that followed, this overwhelming feeling of love and community came out of it, because everyone needed to feel together for a while. We needed to feel like we were more than just hatred.
That’s what I remember of those days. This inexplicable juxtaposition of feeling the most hate I’d ever felt, the most anger I’d ever known, and at the very same time feeling this outpouring of love and empathy I only wish I could carry with me every day.
While we are both these things, we are more often the worst of ourselves.
Last night, Michelle Obama reminded us of some of the things that are the best of who we are, who we could be. She reminded us of those who are great who walk through the door of opportunity then hold it open so that others may also experience greatness.
But this isn’t who we are now. Not often. Not anymore.
Instead of achieving greatness by surrounding ourselves with greatness, we’re often looking for ways to tear down others. We look for failings. We protect ourselves and attack everyone who isn’t like us.
We’re the Youtube generation. Everybody point and laugh.
We have been better than this before. We can be better than this now.
I’ve found myself so often watching this year’s election process down south and feeling rather brokenhearted. I am so saddened by who we have become. I’m tired of divisiveness. I hate the blame game. But this disease keeps spreading. We glom onto hate and fear like leaches sucking a bloated carcass.
Maybe it’s because everyone’s so financially stretched and the future seems bleak. Maybe everyone’s so tired of the struggle to keep our heads afloat that we see others as a threat to our security. Maybe we’re tired of being so aware of our personal failings that we need to spotlight others’.
I don’t know.
That’s who we are, six days a week, on a public level. Maybe at home with our families and our closest friends, we’re better people. In fact, I know most of us are.
But when it comes to being inclusive in society, when it comes to thinking big-picture about our nations and our places in the world, that’s where our humanity evaporates and many of us slide into a place we shouldn’t respect ourselves for in the morning.
And for a brief little while last night, a great speaker reminded us that we’ve been more. In times like the Great Depression, we were motivated by love for others, a belief of being in it together, and an aspiration of communal greatness.
We have had our moments of being something amazing.
Unfortunately, electing a guy into an office and telling him to fix everything, and then going on with life as usual for four years isn’t how amazing happens. Amazing happens when we all remember we’re a part of something bigger. It’s when we all give back with volunteering, generosity of spirit, by helping our fellow man, and looking for the best in every situation.
That’s how greatness happens.
And for a time, I’ll be hoping people are reminded of that for the remaining weeks in this American election.
We need to remember we can be great.
And then we need to become it.
Love is a very good place to start that quest.