The Opposite of Love


A young adult book called The Hate U Give maintains that we all experience this emotion. Interestingly, the first letter of each word in the title spells thug, suggesting that we turn ruffian, criminal, violent when we express the emotion. I’ve only known two or three people that might never have experienced this feeling, but probably even those few have hated at one time or another. Dave, my guide dog, alone seems hate-free.

For over two years, I’ve been stunned by the effectiveness of President trump’s messaging. He really has his finger on the pulse of his base. His fans seem to hang on every word, if excerpts from his rallies in Florida and in my old “stomping grounds,” Wilkes-Barre, PA are typical crowd reactions.

The emotion he stirs is a familiar one to me. My mother was a character out of Hillbilly Elegy, by which I mean, full of anger, but strong as a rock. Our household was acrimonious, and particularly my parents argued. Often in my extended family today, there are spats, even outright fights, that blow over, and then there’s great affection shared.

But growing up in discord, I didn’t want any part of the fighting, the anger, the hate. I still felt it all, but I always found that, when attacked, I just grew so upset I couldn’t speak.

My husband didn’t grow up in a combative household. His parents had escaped Hitler, so they’d known hate and enough of every kind of violence for a lifetime. their home in the US was calm. After Bob and I married, we mostly confined our disagreements to our bedroom, away from the kids.

Thinking about President Trump’s rallies, I remembered a sermon recently. The minister asked us what we thought the opposite of love was. Most of us responded, “hate.”

But he argued that it was fear. And fear begets anger and resentment and hate and scapegoating.

I heard a commentary on others who had worked to the emotions of a crowd—Adolf Hitler, certainly, but also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and I added: Nelson Mandela. These last four men spoke to emotions, but to the power of positive feelings, of dreams and hope and freedom and justice for all. When those four men were speaking, we also experienced severe divisions in our country. We had terrible human and economic suffering, so much separation of class and race.

Maybe it’s too simple to say today that most of us are fearful. It’s fairly easy to stir up all our venom. Fear is a reality, I’m afraid, (ahem), and we must face it and think how to tackle it, moving forward with love and wisdom. Hate is easy. Love is not, except for my furry Davey-man.

About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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