To the man who yelled, “The president still loves you!” at me today upon seeing my “Love Trumps Hate” bumper sticker:
Because you hollered at me from your car as you were driving away, I gather that you did not want to engage in a dialogue about the president, his feelings for me, or my feelings for him. I guess it was safer that way. One-line zingers have become the currency by which we pay for participation in our society. Still — I would like to reply, and what I have to say takes more than one line.
You made your claim without knowing me. Seeing me from a distance, I look like a middle-aged, red-headed, slimmish, white woman. I suppose you made assumptions. I suppose your comment was based on those assumptions — that Donald Trump would love me, a middle-aged, red-headed, slimmish, white woman. And it was based on your experience as a middle-aged, dark-haired, slimmish, white man.
Your comment is not far afield. We middle-aged, red-headed, slimmish, white women have the privilege of being considered fairly innocuous. We aren’t a threat because we aren’t considered “other.” There are a few ginger-averse people out there, but most days I can walk through a grocery store and no one clutches their purse, or stares at my clothing, or takes a picture to post cruel jokes about my appearance. It’s easy to love someone who seems to be the same as you.
But let me ask you, as well the president, because clearly you two are tight –
If I were a transgendered man, would you allow me to use the stall next to you? Would you expect me to use the stall next to Melania? Would I have to go in the woods?
If I were a Latina mother, would you deport me and my husband, leaving our children without parents?
If I were an out-of-work coal miner, would you take away Obamacare, knowing it’s the only health insurance option I have?
If I were a lesbian schoolteacher, would you let me teach your son math? Your daughter?
If I were Jewish father, afraid to take my child to daycare at the Jewish Community Center because of bomb threats, would you demand a federal investigation or would you continue to take money from known white supremacists and pay lip service to my family?
If I were an young, attractive woman, would you escort me safely past catcalling men as I walk to work? Would you feel entitled to my body for doing me that favor?
If I were fifty pounds heavier, would you laugh at me, tweet hurtful insults, make me feel as if I have no right to exist?
If I were a Syrian father who gathered my family and left everything behind so that my children could grow up in safety, would you offer me sanctuary in Trump Towers? Mar-a-Lago? Any one of your many houses?
If I were in prison for killing my abusive husband, would you visit me? Help in my rehabilitation? Welcome me back to your neighborhood?
If I were Muslim, would you insist I not wear a hijab because it makes you uncomfortable?
If I were a black mother whose son had been shot by the police, would you stand with me as I asked for an investigation in to my child’s death?
If I were a 20-year-old college student who found out she was pregnant, would you walk with me through a line of protesters so I can exercise my legal right to an abortion?
If I were brown, would you report me to the police, just to make sure I’m legal?
If I were a seven-year-old boy who came to school without breakfast and doesn’t have money for lunch, would you share a meal with me?
If I were Native American, would you dance with me and protect my sacred lands from corporate interests?
If I were mentally ill and living on the streets, would you kneel with me at the communion rail and share with me the cup of salvation?
These “ifs” are considered “others.” That is, other than you. It is your privilege never to be called into question. It is your privilege never to be deemed a threat. It is your privilege never to have to explain your feelings, your experience, or your existence in order for you to be considered valid. It is your privilege never to worry whether you might lose everything — including your life — because of your looks, your gender, or your faith.
Let me be clear: Just because it is your privilege does not mean it is not your problem.
When we create “others,” we create exclusion. Exclusion necessarily hates. Excluding the “other,” means you necessarily hate them. You cannot say that you love everyone, and at the same time kick entire groups of people to the curb because their problems aren’t your problems. You cannot draw lines to protect your privilege with love in your heart. Exclusive love is favoritism. If anyone is excluded, then everyone can be excluded.
Our deepest, most important need is to belong. We are born with a longing to connect, to be in relationship, to find our tribe, to participate in a community. Belonging means we are accepted. We are included. It means we are loved.
When you read my bumper sticker, I want you to remember this — love means inclusion. When you call out to me that the president still loves me, you aren’t just including middle-aged, red-headed, slimmish, white women. If you include me, I demand you include everyone else, too. I demand to use my privilege to bring everyone else along. I demand we live up to the foundations that make our country great: equality, hospitality, and freedom of expression. I demand we love our neighbor. And that is what you and your president find threatening.
I doubt very seriously that Trump still loves me.
Love is the most dangerous act we commit. You don’t just flippantly toss it from the safety of your Subaru. The practice of love is the willingness to change and be change by another. Loving the “other” opens you to messiness and uncertainties and vulnerabilities for which you may not be prepared. You will not just discover the “other,” you will be labeled “other” as well. And you’ll wear it as a badge of honor, because you love.
This is just a warning, in case you feel the need to shout it from your car again.
Love is very dangerous. And, as it turns out, so are middle-aged, red-headed, slimmish, white women. I’d be more careful next time, if I were you.