Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate, Only Love Can Do That
On the Eve of the Women’s March on Washington, Martin Luther King’s Still Singing Songs of Love
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you weren’t in Washington, DC during the lead up to the second war in Iraq, or if you were getting your news from anybody besides Amy Goodman or Jon Stewart at that time, you might not be aware that there were protests happening in front of the White House literally every day. Some were small—dozens to hundreds of people. Some of them brought in a half million souls or more.
At first I went to all of them or as many as I could. I lost track of how many I’d been to…
But I was there on at least one occasion when Daniel Ellsberg—the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971—was arrested…
And when Amy Goodman and Medea Benjamin spoke and Michelle Shocked sang and 26 people plus Alice Walker were arrested for attempting to cross an arbitrary line drawn through Lafayette Park in front of the White House. (“My people built that house!” Alice said, linked arm-in-arm with fellow protesters.)
Sometimes I’d head downtown just to see if I couldn’t get on Al Jazeera because, as a Syrian man that I met at one of the protests told me, “Before Al Jazeera the people in my country thought that America was this big monolith united in wanting to bomb all of us to hell. Why is your media not doing its job?”
So it was important to me. To be a number in that way. To have my body counted, so as to minimize the ultimate body count.
Then one day, on the morning of what was to be one of the biggest anti-war protests yet, I found myself stranded—actually, more like marooned—at some friends house in West Virginia. They lived up a hill from River Rd. in Shepherdstown, and the Potomac had broken its banks and flooded everything as far as the eye could see. The only road out was underneath about 7 ft. of water.
So I sat on the front porch looking out over the river and being angry at myself for not paying attention to the forecast, and being angry that I had to miss the protest, and being angry that I had to freakin’ protest in the first place, and just being angry in general.
And then it hit me.
I was part of the problem.
All of that anger that I brought to those rallies was just hatred trying to drive out hatred. It never works. You don’t change a goddam thing that way.
After that I never went to another anti-war rally. But I DID go to many a peace vigil. And if I could be in Washington on January 21st, I’d go to the Women’s March on Washington.
But I’d meditate on that quote at the top first and try to carry it in my heart all day. What’s at stake is too important to be contaminated by hatred of the other.
It’s even more than healthcare… than Black Lives Matter… It’s more than women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Human rights.
It’s more than access to education and it’s more than keeping environmental protections in place.
What’s at stake is the Soul of a nation that is still being born—that is in the throes of Spiritual Labor. And they call it ‘labor’ because it’s hard.
If you’re out there marching tomorrow, or any tomorrow, please keep in mind that while it’d be foolish to deny that our outer mission has changed, our inner mission—to burn up what divides us in that fire from which our own holy bones were formed, to become Real Human Beings—remains the same, and as vitally important as it ever was.
Four more from the man who was marching on Washington before many of us were even born:
“We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.”
“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
Thank you, Dr. King. And God rest your Soul.
To all of your flooding rivers,
P.S. Share this with a friend who loves your pink hat.