While white supremacists were causing violence and inciting riots through their fear and hatred in Charlottesville, VA, I was attending a celebration of love at the wedding of a friend of mine. While three people died in Virginia, I was in my husband’s arms, celebrating the union of two friends. While people were feeling hate, I was experiencing a deep, abiding love that I hope everyone feels in their life.
The juxtaposition of these two events, violence and hatred over feelings of true love and union, has been sitting poorly with me for the last 24 hours. I have been trying to sort out how there could be so much hatred in a world filled with so much love and compassion.
I’ve been doing what I know how in order to try and understand this. Early this morning, I went for a run. Running always helps sort out my thoughts, but today it didn’t help at all. I tried writing my thoughts earlier, and I couldn’t get them on the page.
Tonight, I was lucky enough to be close to the first of many local vigils/rallies to stand in solidarity with the counter-protesters in Charlottesville. Held at the major intersection of the Village of Rhinebeck, about 100 to 150 people showed up holding signs of love and peace. I carried a sign with the eternal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
I have to admit, I’ve been feeling defeated today. I have always believed in the ideals of this country, even when I know that we have never actually loved up to them. But going to the vigil helped to raise my spirits. With the 150 or so people there, I felt in union with them. We had white people and minorities, men and women, LGBTQ people, children and the elderly. A cross-section of the country was represented on that street corner.
Being at a major intersection, hundreds of cars passed in the time we were standing and chanting. Many cars honked, gave the thumbs-up or peace signs out the window, and cheered. Two truck drivers even pulled their horns in solidarity with us, eliciting cheers from those gathered on the corner. Many people took photos and videos as they drove or walked past. It was uplifting to know that so many people supported us. What was even more heartening was the fact that there were only three instances of people who tried to shut us down.
One man shouted “Hail Trump!” as he drove past. Another swore at us, calling us assholes. The third said that it would take a revolution to change things. He was the only one that people in our crowd answered (we ignored the others). One man shouted, “This is a revolution!”
I always wonder about rallies, vigils, and protests. Although I have been participating in several in the last seven months or so, I have to wonder if they really do any good. I think I have an answer for that today.
By going to a rally, I made myself feel better. I surrounded myself with others who believe that love trumps hate. I stood in solidarity with those who oppose hatred, violence, and the evil ideology of white supremacy. By doing so, I gained back some of the faith in humanity that I lost when I first heard about the domestic terrorism that struck this country. I hope that others in the crowd and those that drove by felt the same. I also gained some hope from the fact that there were very few people who made nasty comments to us. More could have felt that way, but they knew to keep their mouths shut.
Also, it shows the world that we will not back down from our beliefs. We will counter hate with love. We will stand up to the hatred that is spewing from this country. Passive acceptance allows these terrorists to gain ground. Passivity only helps the oppressor, as they say. And I refuse to help the oppressor.
Lastly, it reminds me that I have power. I have my words. I have my thoughts. I have the ability to speak out against this kind of hate. While more needs to be done than just going to a vigil, it is a start. It is a place to rejuvenate my heart and soul, to remind myself that there is still love and compassion in this world. And I can be a voice for change.
Throughout this entire weekend, one story from a Buddhist monk keeps coming to my mind. A Buddhist monk was being held and tortured (I think by the Chinese after they invaded Tibet…the exact details escape me right now but are unimportant). When he finally was free, he stated that his biggest fear during his captivity was that he would stop feeling compassion for his captors/torturers. He knew that he could not reduce himself to their level. He continually reminded himself that they, too, are human beings, deserving of love and compassion.
We can hate and condemn their actions. But to reduce ourselves to hating them as people would reduce us as well.
I refuse to hate people. I will hate ideology, but I will show compassion for those who have none for others. Only love can win over hate.