Guest post by Kanika Sethi
I am a big Beatles fan. In fact, right after the 2016 election, when people immediately starting forming “resistance” groups and gathering in protest outside of Trump Tower shouting obscenities at him, I half-jokingly told friends and families that the only way I’d be standing out there would be if I were with a group singing, “All You Need is LOVE!”
During the weeks prior to the election, like many Americans, my anxiety became so intense that I hardly slept. I could do nothing but obsess over the news, feeling in my gut that everything was going absolutely wrong. The only way I knew how to calm myself down was by offering nightly loving-kindness meditations toward Donald Trump. I thought that his suffering must have been so intense in order for him to be such hateful, spiteful, bitter, angry man. And he desperately needed more love and compassion.
I am a firm believer in the ideal of Ahimsa – Sanskrit for non-violence in word, thought and deed — and the idea of “resistance” or even just the term itself has triggered an inner conflict. I’m in awe of and absolutely grateful for the resistance groups and incredible activism that has emerged during this very troubling time in our world history. Yet, although I firmly believe there are evil forces struggling to retain power, I have been conflicted about being part of a “resistance” when I fear it will only cause more harm and violence in the end.
I used to think that all we needed was love. I naively believed that somehow, the subtle energy of love could overpower and overcome the forces of hatred that are ominously surfacing during this shadowy era. But there is true and pure fear underlying all of this hatred. Fear of losing power to minority groups who will soon become the majority, fear of repeated cycles of drug addiction, violence and poverty and essentially, to a large degree, fear of change. There is fear on all sides, for sure. Ironically, one of the greatest fears everyone has is of losing their rights – to free speech, of access to the truth and of freedom to practice their own beliefs.
I have come to realize, after pondering the horrific events in Charlottesville and the last seven months of fear, stress and chaos in this Nation, that love is NOT the only way to extinguish the hell-fires of hatred. Yes, we need love. We need compassion for all, we need dignity for all and human rights for all. These things stem from unconditional love – which I believe we are all fully capable of. We must always remember this. However, if we are to learn from the example of and honor the memory of Heather Heyer – a white social activist who was murdered by a home grown white nationalist terrorist, (who also seriously injured 19 other people when he backed his vehicle into a crowd of people seeking to protect their community from hatred), we have to acknowledge one other force which is vital at this time. Like all of the other counter-protesters out there, Heather was full of courage.
In order to neutralize the fear which has been consuming our nation, we need more courageous people, like the activists who have been out on the front lines, protesting the cowardly executive orders and actions of congress, the members of the Republican party who have dared to speak out against their morally corrupt leadership, the immigrants who continue to work jobs that nobody else wants, even though their fear for their lives, families, safety and their freedom. It takes courage and strength to stand up to hatred. Courage to make correct moral and ethical decisions and courage to defend and take care of your neighbors even if you are not yet the target of the vitriol. Of course, we need love, but love coupled with the strongest of convictions and the non-violent action that arises from this love.
On Wednesday night in Charlottesville, a candle-light vigil was held by hundreds of brave mourners, who retraced the exact steps that armed, shielded and torch bearing Neo-Nazi White supremacists had taken two days earlier. The silent echoes of fear and hatred that chilled the hearts of the community and nation were replaced by mourners singing and chanting, “Love Wins!” repeatedly and courageously. We all must be continually fearless and compassionate in the days ahead for love to prevail.