I know The Record has seen a lot of my face in recent weeks. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy.Anyone who knows me or sees me knows me as that activist human who is very political. When this piece comes out I will have just finished an internship at the Indiana Democratic Party that I’ve had since the beginning of June. I have loved this internship; I’ve gotten to know so many people, made lifelong friends, and gotten to know the community I’ve called home for the last decade in ways I never imagined.
But activism is hard. It’s a lot of work. A lot of the work seems fruitless at times, especially when dealing with institutions. That leads to a lot of frustration. It can often seem like nothing gets done and, as the world gets worse and worse, it is very easy to lose hope. And then you get angry.
I got into activism largely because of anger. When I got to college, a lot of what I found in the activist community was anger. It created a lot of toxicity and rage that I fell right into. All I could do was be angry and I felt trapped. That isn’t to say anger was or is a bad thing. It was perfectly justified. How can you look at the state of the world at a macrocosmic level and look at the college on a microcosmic level and not feel even a twinge of anger for the injustice you see?
But I let that anger completely take control of me. By the end of my sophomore year, I felt like my body was on fire. I felt angry and powerless and useless. It made me a shell of something. And I hated myself.
I’m not sure I know when the shift in my thinking happened, to tell you the truth. I think it may have come from SST. Maybe I just got better friends or started reading better books. But I’m no longer angry, at least in the ways I used to be. I’ll always be a little angry, and I should be because a little spark to fuel the fire is how we get the wildfire of change to spread.
But I have learned something from all this: Activism rooted in love is so much more fulfilling and lifegiving, and more effective, than activism rooted in rage.
Love acknowledges when the going gets tough and lets people rest. Love provides grace when people are learning. Love holds people accountable when they mess up. Love sees the strengths in all of us and then uses those strengths to make the world better. Love meets people where they are at. But most importantly of all, love demands change when presented with injustice. So I am here making that demand.
When activism is rooted in anger, there is often this pressure to never take a break, to keep going and going, to fight and only fight. When a person who is often involved in activism circles takes a vacation or even just posts some pictures of dogs being cute on Facebook, they often get accused of not doing enough or feel they aren’t doing enough. This is unhealthy and tiresome. Activism rooted in love allows people to love themselves and not feel guilty for feeling any amount of happiness.
I think one of the reasons I became a Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies major was because I needed to know what peace looked like. Now, six months from graduation, I still do not know the answer to that question. But that’s okay. I’ve been given small doses. I feel peace when I see mountains. When I pet dogs. When I’m with the people I love. When I meditate. When I write. When I’m in choir. When victories are made. When the sun is against my skin. Peace is the filling of the hole that anger left gaping in my chest.
Activism in love does not get burned out. The fire is tended to as opposed to letting it burn everything in its path only to die. Love is infinitely stronger than hate or anger because it keeps us alive. Love gives and receives and fulfills. So let’s work with love. Let us fight to end oppression in this world. Love is not roses and thoughts and prayers but direct action and screaming and hoping and never being afraid to speak truth to power. Love has friends and anger has enemies. So I will fight and I will love and I will protect. That is my activism now. And never before have I felt more alive.