Revolutionary Love: A Feminist Intervention

–by Valarie Kaur  (March 01 2018)

My first lesson in revolutionary love was that stories can help us see no stranger. […]

And then my son was born. In a time when hate crimes against our communities are at the highest they have been since 9/11. When right-wing nationalist movements are on the rise around the globe and have captured the presidency of the United States. When white supremacists march in our streets, torches high, hoods off. And I have to reckon with the fact that my son is growing up in a country more dangerous for him than the one I was given. And there will be moments when I cannot protect him when he is seen as a terrorist … just as black people in America are still seen as criminal. Brown people, illegal. Queer and trans people, immoral. Indigenous people, savage. Women and girls as property. And when they fail to see our bodies as some mother’s child, it becomes easier to ban us, detain us, deport us, imprison us, sacrifice us for the illusion of security. […]

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is freedom from hate. Because when we are free from hate, we see the ones who hurt us not as monsters, but as people who themselves are wounded, who themselves feel threatened, who don’t know what else to do with their insecurity but to hurt us, to pull the trigger, or cast the boat, or pass the policy aimed at us. But if some of us begin to wonder about them, listen even to their stories, we learn that participation in oppression comes at a cost. It cuts them off from their own capacity to love.

This was my second lesson in revolutionary love. We love our opponents when we tend the wound in them.Tending to the wound is not healing them — only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents: the terrorist, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change. I looked back on all of our campaigns, and I realized that any time we fought bad actors, we didn’t change very much. But when we chose to wield our swords and shields to battle bad systems, that’s when we saw change. I have worked on campaigns that released hundreds of people out of solitary confinement, reformed a corrupt police department, changed federal hate crimes policy. The choice to love our opponents is moral and pragmatic, and it opens up the previously unimaginable possibility of reconciliation.

But remember, I had to tend to my own rage and grief first. Loving our opponents requires us to love ourselves. Gandhi, King, Mandela — they taught a lot about how to love others and opponents. They didn’t talk a lot about loving ourselves. This is a feminist intervention.

Because for too long have women and women of color been told to suppress their rage, suppress their grief in the name of love and forgiveness. But when we suppress our rage, that’s when it hardens into hate directed outward, but usually directed inward. But mothering has taught me that all of our emotions are necessary. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger is the force that protects it.

This was my third lesson in revolutionary love. We love ourselves when we breathe through the fire of pain and refuse to let it harden into hate.

That’s why I believe that love must be practiced in all three directions to be revolutionary. Loving just ourselves feels good, but it’s narcissism. Loving only our opponents is self-loathing. Loving only others is ineffective. This is where a lot of our movements live right now. We need to practice all three forms of love. And so, how do we practice it?

Number 1, in order to love others, see no stranger. We can train our eyes to look upon strangers on the street, on the subway, on the screen, and say in our minds, “Brother, sister, aunt, uncle.” And when we say this, what we are saying is, “You are a part of me I do not yet know. I choose to wonder about you. I will listen for your stories and pick up a sword when you are in harm’s way.”

And so, number 2: in order to love our opponents, tend the wound. Can you see the wound in the ones who hurt you? Can you wonder even about them? And if this question sends panic through your body, then your most revolutionary act is to wonder, listen and respond to your own needs.

Number 3: in order to love ourselves, breathe and push. When we are pushing into the fires in our bodies or the fires in the world, we need to be breathing together in order to be pushing together. How are you breathing each day? Who are you breathing with? Because … when executive orders and news of violence hits our bodies hard, sometimes less than a minute apart, it feels like dying. In those moments, my son places his hand on my cheek and says, “Dance time, mommy?” And we dance. In the darkness, we breathe and we dance. Our family becomes a pocket of revolutionary love. Our joy is an act of moral resistance. How are you protecting your joy each day? Because in joy we see even darkness with new eyes.

And so the mother in me asks, what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our future is not dead, but still waiting to be born? What if this is our great transition?Remember the wisdom of the midwife. “Breathe,” she says. And then — “push.” Because if we don’t push, we will die. If we don’t breathe, we will die.

Revolutionary love requires us to breathe and push through the fire with a warrior’s heart and a saint’s eyes so that one day, one day you will see my son as your own and protect him when I am not there. You will tend to the wound in the ones who want to hurt him. You will teach him how to love himself because you love yourself. You will whisper in his ear, as I whisper in yours, “You are brave.” You are brave.

— Valarie Kaur. Excerpt from her TED talk, 3 Lessons Of Revolutionary Love in Times of Rage. [The art above by Colleen Choi]

About pancho

To live in radical joyous shared servanthood to unify the Earth family.
This entry was posted in ahimsa, anarchism, anarchy, ARTivism, astrobiology, Awakin Oakland, education, fearlessness, gift-economy, meditation, natural philosophy, noncooperation, nonviolence, Peace Army, poetry, satyagraha, Shanti Sena, soulforce, WednesdaysOnFridays and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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