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Lions Roar : January 2018
Lion’s Roar: How would you assess the state of love in American society today? Lama Tsomo: This moment in time is filled with all kinds of extremes, from environmental politics to the economy. It is bringing out both a lot of love and a lot of othering. Van and I have talked a lot about the temptation to fall into “us” ver- sus “them”—how easy it is to feel part of a group by othering somebody else, how tempting it is to fall into that when we’re afraid. Yet this time is calling us to move past that urge into loving everyone and finding solutions for the sake of everyone. Van Jones: It definitely feels like we are in a spiral of tribalism. What’s interesting about tribalism is that love is present—but it’s narrowly focused. Trump voters feel that they’ve been left out, laughed at, or pushed aside by an emerging American majority that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t speak the same way they do. There’s an upsurge of love for self, but with a Trump-style wall around it. Similarly, other groups are also coming into a form of self- love or self-expression, whether we’re talking about transgender people, people with immigrant backgrounds, or young African Americans marching against police brutality. They’re expressing a love for themselves, and for people who are like them. But that love doesn’t always extend to people on the other side of the police line. That’s understandable, because of the long history of the system abusing its power. And yet if neither side reaches out, we get stalemate at best—or a new kind of civil war at worst. The challenge is to get people to extend the boundaries of the love they feel without giving up pride in who they are, where they’re from, or what their faith is. It’s about creating as many opportunities as possible for people to rediscover those connections. Can we find a love that bridges differences without sweeping very real differences of opinion and policies under the carpet? Van Jones: In a democracy we get to disagree, which is called freedom. That’s the point. In a dictatorship you can’t disagree. But there’s a kind of totalitarianism on both sides today. I think liberals in the United States have an almost col- onial attitude toward the red states, like Southerners are just unwashed heathens. Liberals too often act like red state voters need to be conquered or converted to the NPR religion, and then all will be well with the republic. Similarly on the right wing, everything about liberals is seen as perverse, weak, or corrupting. So the first step is remind ourselves that we need each other. Liberals need conservatives, and conservatives need liberals, to make the country work. No bird can fly with only a left wing or only a right wing. I would say we have a heart problem and also a head prob- lem. The head problem is remembering that we’re not enemies, Why America Needs Love We don’t have to agree, but we don’t have to be enemies. CNN’s VAN JONES and Buddhist teacher LAMA TSOMO on why love lays the ground for real dialogue and change. PHOTO©SERGEYUSSR/DREAMSTIME LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2018 68