I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine
~ L. Cohen, “Treaty”
I’m trying to make it about love. I mean, right now, this minute, in an intellectual way, I am trying make it about love.
See, there was this event last Tuesday night.
Next Tuesday night, when the sun goes down, I will play the Moonlight Sonata backwards. This will reverse the effects of the world’s mad plunge into suffering for the last 200 million years. What a lovely night that will be! What a sigh of relief! ~ L. Cohen, “The Great Event”
Must have been the wrong Tuesday night. This one was Tuesday night, November 8, 2016, when all the pollsters were wrong and the wrong person was elected president of the United States. Not just some guy from the other team, oh well, win some, lose some. I’m talking about a guy who is wrong by every possible measure – except the emotional one, which evidently was what drew in the voting public.
This set off crashing waves of emotional reaction. One of my cousins went on a rampage online, slashing and burning in comments sections across the public internet. I enjoyed it. She gave vent to all of my outrage and horror, simultaneously validating and disarming what I was going through.
The question is, how? How could anyone think this individual is fit to lead anyone, anywhere? He has spoken up for everything that is mean, selfish and hateful in the world, and this cannot be condoned. We must resist his bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, willful disregard for the good of his fellow humans. Acceptance is not an option! This is not who we are, as Americans and as humans!
There’ll be the breaking of the ancient Western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms, there’ll be fires on the road
And the white men dancing.
~ L. Cohen, “The Future”
Who are they, these deplorables who put us in this position? Are a quarter of Americans really so hateful that they can overlook … well, everything? My reaction was to despise all white people, to glare at them in suspicion and cherish the revulsion I felt. But because I can’t understand it, I have to keep thinking about it. How?
Okay, let’s start with my basic premise that bigotry, xenophobia and homophobia are bad. My choice of candidate has been accused of supporting access to abortion, which other people consider just as evil as my list. I disagree, but I can see that this is their point of view. How can I overlook my candidate’s willingness to approve of murder? That’s the deal breaker for some of them. It really is very similar to me asking, How can you condone racism?
Now, trust me, my ego is rushing around justifying my position, trying to make me feel superior. For example, what I advocate is not abortion itself, but the right to choose; whereas this other person has advocated to DENY rights to gay people, immigrants, etc. I can’t actually win that argument even with myself, because – if you see abortion as murder, in black and white – the “right” I want to allow people is itself morally wrong. It’s not something that should be permitted, in their minds – and that extends as well to the other human rights I defend, such on as gay marriage and asylum for refugees and so on.
So maybe my rage, which I feel is justified, simply mirrors the horror and revulsion of these other people toward … well, me. *shrugs* At least, in this scenario, they are acting out of some kind of intention based on their own ethics. I can broadly call this “good intentions” (and wish them safe passage on that road to hell). They are only denying rights that shouldn’t be rights at all, in their minds. Like raping children shouldn’t be condoned by law. How can they overlook x, y and z? They think the a, b and c of my position are worse.
That’s my starting point. It’s nowhere near love yet, but … baby steps. It makes it easier to feel like maybe I’m not surrounded by monsters, at least. And it opens a crack in my heart – that’s how the light gets in – so maybe I can (someday) hear the viewpoint of someone who helped put that person in office, without everything inside me turning into cold fire.
And maybe I can even grant humanity to the president-elect – someday – enough to remember that no one is completely evil, or completely good. I don’t currently think he has any intentions for the good of anyone but himself – and I fervently wish him to be thwarted in every effort to enrich his own life – so no, I’m not very good at this loving thing.
But as for my fellow citizens, I am trying to remember to love them. The flame throwers in my heart have not gone far, but – at this moment – they’re out of reach, and I’m trying to open a way for a treaty. Between their love and mine.
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever seem to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya
Yeah, but even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but
Farewell, Leonard Cohen, sentry of the heart, bard of beauty in darkness. I feel your passing like the release of a held breath: soft, sweet, and then gone. Thank you.