“This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he’s harnessed fear for political purposes. Only love can cast that out. So, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.”
Former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s words, uttered in June 2019 following the first rounds of Democratic debates, sparked laughter in many Americans.
Despite the popular dismissing of Williamson as erratic, and lacking any real challenge to Trump, she was undoubtedly right about one thing: only love will truly defeat Trump and his problematic imprint on America. Even if current Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the presidential election this November, a revolution of empathy is required to prevent the ascension of a second Trumpian figure in the future.
The United States has a long history of fostering oppressive attitudes, both in policy-making and cultural attitudes. One can point to the roughly 250 years of institutionalised slavery followed by segregation, or policies like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, that banned Chinese immigrants from entering the country. In essence, hatred seems to make up the foundation of America as much as its Constitution does. It’s no surprise that Trump’s harnessing of racism, intolerance and paranoia was a winning ticket in the 2016 election.
There were, of course, those who supported him for his populist promises of ending the outsourcing of American jobs and his supposed appreciation for blue-collar workers. But this was a man who also suggested that Mexicans were “rapists” and skilfully tapped into America’s nativism – the favouring of US citizens over immigrants. During the 2016 campaign, 84% of his supporters wished for the US-Mexico border wall he had boasted about to be built, showing the extent of their fears related to immigration. And, as could have been predicted, since Trump’s inauguration the number of hate crimes against non-white communities has risen – after all, when discrimination wins an election, it becomes acceptable to the public and people get away with perpetuating oppression.
This is precisely why America needs not only a revolution of love, but a far-reaching one. We need to start dealing with the causes of society’s issues, not just their symptoms. How else will we remove them and allow true equality to burgeon? During her presidential bid, Williamson rightfully called for reparations for slavery. Some questioned this proposal: why, 150 years after slavery abolition in the US, is compensating the Black American community a necessary enterprise?
“You can’t have the future you want until you clean up the past,” she told presenters on The View.
In 1865, after the expansive release of enslaved people, General William Tecumseh Sherman promised Black families land acquisition, known as Special Field Orders No.15. President Andrew Jonson revoked this promptly.
In the South of the US, the Black Codes still allowed for Black people to be forced back into enslavement should they commit crimes. Since Black communities did not have the same opportunity as their white counterparts and vagrancy was considered a crime, many ended up back to square one. The criminal justice system, particularly the police and prison systems, were created post-slavery to continue the cycles of institutionalised oppression and violence towards Black communities.
A subsequent economic and social gap has endured into modern times: so much of the racial tension present in America undoubtedly stems from its history.
Reparations would not try and spur guilt in white people for inequities and crimes committed by their ancestors: they would simply be payment of a debt that is owed. They would be agents of love.
To cure America of its rooted prejudices, love must be administered deeply, extensively, holistically. History must be acknowledged with empathy and bridged with the present. It’s an approach I’m certain few would argue with; if a nation were to flush out its ignorance and prejudice and replace it with openness and education, structures of racism and nativism would dissipate. Fear would expire and become a hallmark of times long gone.
Love is not discordant with politics. Fighting the causes of social ailments, as well as their symptoms, isn’t pointless. On the contrary, it’s key if we wish to liberate the world of Trumpian figures and the continuous suffering they perpetuate.