Whenever I hear the song “Love Hurts,” I am transported back to 1976 and the band Nazareth. It was the year we celebrated the bicentennial of our independence.
It was just a decade after all people of color were granted the right to vote. It was nearly five decades before it would still be okay to kill an innocent black man with a knee to the neck in the name of “law and order.”
It was at a time when hundreds of thousands of gay kids like me lived in fear of being discovered and ostracized — or worse. How could so many of our family and friends have supported those who wanted to hurt us and take away our rights and dignity — our lives — at any cost?
It didn’t seem possible — but it was.Just like it is now with people of all kinds who are different still being targeted, persecuted and oppressed.
We loved our country, religions and families — but they didn’t love us in return ... at least not the way we needed them to. They willingly and unwillingly supported a system that worked against us at every turn, even as we all paid tribute to the land of the free and the brave.
We felt betrayed and unheard, devalued, much the same way many people still feel right now no matter which side of the divide they happen to be on ... often by those to whom they are the closest. Love hurts. Politics disguised as love hurts even more.
I was too afraid and confused to speak up as a kid. I didn’t feel empowered enough to stand up to the hurtful language, insensitive behavior and prejudice that existed all around me. I internalized it, and still do at times.
The more I learned about what love really is, though — at least for me — the more I realized I could no longer be silent about things that really matter. And, yes, sometimes it hurts others to speak your truth. It is heartbreaking but a small price to pay.
American novelist and activist James Baldwin said, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war — love is growing up.”
We are on that battlefield now. We are questioning what it means to love and to be loved at a time when everything has become so personal. We are confronting the dirt that can no longer be swept under the carpet if we are to truly grow up individually and collectively. That is not easy work. It takes courage. It takes resiliency. It has been a long time coming.
Not every relationship will survive this transition. That is sad. However, I believe most will. Love hurts — but it also heals. If we truly love each other, we will all do the work that is needed to find our way back to each other.
Anaïs Nin, a French-Cuban American writer, says, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
A country divided only helps the ones who are dividing it. If we are to replenish the source of our love, we must all take a deep breath and step back for a bit. We must recharge our souls — each one of us — so that we can see each other through spiritual eyes. We must give each other space so that our love does not die. That space is filled with the energy that can heal us if we let it.
That space is filled with heroes like Barak Obama under whose presidency people like me were finally given hope. It is filled with those like Joe Biden, who was at his side the entire time, and who is waiting to heal us with his love and empathy now.
I do not believe in accidents. I think the pandemic has provided the space that was needed to save us from ourselves in a world that has become so politicized and polarized. I read this week that “sometimes you have to love people from a distance and give them the space and time to get their minds right before you let them back into your life.” Sometimes they need to do the same for you.
That is how we will eventually approach each other again with compassion and curiosity, instead of anger and fear — by giving each other the space to breathe and love again. By taking a break from the hurt and anger. It is not only possible; it is essential for our ultimate freedom.
My blessing for all of us this week is that we are able to give each other the space we need and that we use that space to find our way back to each other. No matter who wins on November 3, we all lose if we don’t have love. I pray that is not the case.