As We Approach Election Day, Lead with a Love Ethic

It is time to integrate love and empathy back into our daily lives.

Photo by Kurt Belen / https://www.heyykb.com/

When a place can so quickly determine who does and does not matter, no life matters. Tell me who matters? Tell me someone in the world that matters? That’s why there are so many songs about love. Because somehow you know that you don’t matter, and we’re searching for the person that makes our life matter.

My professor made this comment in 2018 while discussing Black Lives Matter and police brutality in the United States, and now, 2 years later, I am revisiting his words as I reflect on the past 7 months and the torrent of pain, disaster, and stress they have brought to anyone fortunate enough to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, we have watched family members die alone, hurricanes ravage our coasts, and wildfires burn forests, while constantly being reminded of the country’s disregard for Black lives as Black men, women, and children are killed in our streets. Every day, Black people have to proclaim our worth while managing the emotional, mental, and physical stress precipitated by the pandemic. We are exhausted, and when we seek validation in our work, in our fight for justice, and in hope for a better future, we are thrown back into desperation when the people and systems in which we invested ourselves betray us.

The pandemic exasperated the myriad issues underlying the daily lives of most Americans, and challenged our government to prioritize the needs of its least advantaged citizens above those of the billionaire class on which, for the last four years, it had focused. As expected they could not deliver on what was needed, and as Congress continued to support financially-stable corporations over dying small businesses while abandoning unemployed Americans, they revealed once again “who does and does not matter.”

bell hooks would attribute the government’s failure to act on behalf of those that need aid to a culture of “[greed] that subsumes love and compassion.” In “All About Love: New Visions,” hooks highlights how, by abandoning a love ethic, and promoting material and financial success, Americans have allowed ourselves to forget what it means to care for our communities. This trickles across every aspect of our society, from healthcare to policing and education, and allows those in power to prioritize policies that will benefit themselves and their funders, ignoring the millions of under-resourced citizens who representatives ostensibly serve. And though finding your person, as my professor commented, may create value in our individual lives, not until we shift away from avarice and prioritize love across our communities will we see the structural change we have fought for throughout this pandemic.

A system founded in love, defined by M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” enables us to empathize with our community by putting its needs over individual gain. When we fund universal pre-K in every city, we affirm that a child’s socioeconomic status has no impact on their basic educational rights. When we rethink policing and public safety and hold officers accountable, we affirm that the law is meant to protect citizens, not defend cops. And when we build a healthcare system that opens its doors to all, even those who are unemployed and uninsured, we affirm that every life matters.

So as we approach what is likely to be a long and potentially debilitating election, remember that in each of these battles our goal is to shift the United States from an ethic of greed and individualism to love and compassion.

Writer & dancer working in education. I can be found writing on race, culture, media, and politics. Twitter/IG: @jaredfgiles

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