The opposite of love is not hate.
Both are strong emotions. People with either love or hate care deeply about the issue at hand.
No, the opposite of love – and hate too, for that matter – is apathy.
I … just … don’t … care.
As a holiday weekend is concluding, I’m struggling with this. Perhaps I’m feeling emotional fatigue. Especially since I’ve never learned how to express my emotions verbally.
America the divided
Am I proud to be an American?
That’s a more complicated question than it used to be.
I am free to live where I choose, worship where I choose (or not), work in a career field of my choice (assuming someone would hire me), marry whom I choose, spend my free time however I choose …
Yes, this country offers many good things.
But not all receive those things equally.
This is the message of America today.
We hold up that ideal, but we aren’t close to it. We’re closer than we were a century ago.
Or are we?
Equality an illusion
I just read a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond, which described the substandard housing situation in inner-city Milwaukee a decade ago. We on the outside think the long-term poor often choose to live that way, that if they would just get a job or education, they could pick themselves up by their bootstraps and improve their lives.
But that’s often not possible. The housing culture in the wonderful United States of America is designed to keep poor people poor.
Rents are not much cheaper in poor areas than they are in the suburbs. The federal government subsidizes low-income housing for landlords, so they charge unaffordable rents in low-income areas because they can. And when poor people get behind on rent, far too often they get evicted.
The book follows eight families who faced this. Many of them made upwards of 90 or more calls and/or visits to rental properties to find a suitable place after eviction. Eviction is like a criminal record – often landlords make it difficult for the evicted to rent again.
And if the family, often led by a single woman, has children, that’s another strike. Kids cause damage. Teens do drugs and get into trouble. Claiming this, some landlords don’t want children.
And why are neighborhoods segregated racially? Because landlords make it so. They find creative ways to refuse renting an apartment or house to a minority in a “non-minority” neighborhood.
Us outsiders don’t get it. We can’t just throw a month’s rent at one of these families and think they are good to go. The issues run far deeper than that.
Are there any solutions?
The author suggests housing vouchers, which can be used in any neighborhood.
By and large, both public housing residents and voucher holders pay only 30 percent of their income on rent, with government funds covering the rest.
Evicted, page 302
Many poor people pay 70 percent or more of their income on rent, which means they often have to decide between rent and food, or rent and the utility bill. That’s why evictions are prevalent among the severely poor.
This problem is nationwide. In 2012, one in nine occupied rental households in Cleveland were summoned to eviction court (page 296). More than 10 percent of all renters in the biggest city near here faced eviction.
Do the rest of us even notice this? Even if we do, how much do we care? Enough to change public policy to improve the lives of the poorest among us?
Compassion helps, but compassion goes only so far.
Just ask the illegal immigrants at our southern border.
Standing for … what?
And as we celebrated our nation’s birthday, I saw this at work in the way we treat our flag. Even the flag has become a racist symbol.
What does the American flag stand for, anyway?
Does it stand for all those freedoms we like to say we have? Does it stand for the bravery of our veterans and active military service people?
What else does it stand for?
And why do some people not stand for it at all?
When I see unbridled poverty, when I see far too much violence (there was a police shooting in our city last week), when I see broken homes as the norm … can I really celebrate living in the United States these days?
Are there solutions? Or have we given up the fight, given in to apathy?
We think only of ourselves. My rights. I can live with whomever I want, drive whatever speed I want on the highway, spend my money (or other people’s money) on whatever I want …
Without thinking of consequences.
Burying our dreams
We just don’t care anymore. There’s no bigger picture.
No ideals bigger than ourselves.
What is freedom, really? What did our forefathers live and die for?
Did they live and die to create the United States we have today? Is this the best we can do?
Can we learn to get along with each other again? To overcome apathy?
We like to throw around the word “hate,” but it’s often misplaced. Sure, there’s some hate out there, but I don’t think there’s as much of it as extremists on both sides of the political aisle think there is. Most of us, rich or poor, are just trying to live our lives.
Leave us alone, we are saying. Just chill out.
Maybe I’m mistaking this for apathy. Maybe we aren’t as apathetic as I think we are.
Perhaps we do care, deep down in our hearts.
We just don’t know how to show it.
Or, more likely, we’re not allowed to show it.
We get shouted down. The “hate” word is thrown at us if we disagree. The loudest voice is often the one that gets heard in this country.
Which is why I defended the United Methodist Church this spring for standing firm – as it has for more than half a century – to its convictions regarding homosexuality. As one voice swimming against the political correctness tide, I took some flak for that, but the discussion was excellent. Thanks again to all of you who participated.
The loudest, or even the most persistent, voice is not always the right one.
Sometimes, the silent majority actually has something to say.
We care. We really do.
But does that mean anything? Can the silent majority do anything with its passions and desires in this country?