Years ago on the way to my weekly college work outs, I’d pump some motivating music through my then ultra-flashy Walkman headphones; we had beats without Beats back then.
One of my favorite songs to rile me up, get me going, and remind me of my exercise initiative was the infamous Bonnie Tyler “Footloose” classic…
“… I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night…”
Something about the desiring and admiring of heroes was captivating, motivating and good.
And yet today, all these years later, we seem to have gotten that all wrong. Today, whether we say it or not, we instead hold out for an enemy.
enemy | ˈenəmē | – noun
a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
• (the enemy) [treated as singular or plural] a hostile nation or its armed forces or citizens, especially in time of war.
• a thing that harms or weakens something else.
With all due respect, let’s insert an Intramuralist rephrase: an enemy is one perceived to be actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. An enemy is perceived to harm or weaken one.
The left has the right (and vice versa). The Yankees have the Red Sox. Black has white. Taylor Swift has Kanye. “Tastes great” has “less filling.” The vaxxers have the anti-vaxxers. The “woke” have the ignorant. And the Dallas Cowboys now even have the Washington Football Team.
There’s a part of me that wants to identify all of the above as mere opposites. There’s another part of me that hears one say, “C’mon, you can’t compare societal issues to sports.” And truthfully, I somewhat agree with said assessment.
Yet what emboldens today’s identification as enemies is the passion with which we justify supporting a singular side — and — the disdain that we have for the other. As long as I can hold onto my disdain (warning, here — no one’s going to like this), I can justify my hatred.
After all, that’s what we do with our enemies — right? I mean, that’s ok — right?
We hate them.
Every time I hear the encouragement to “love my enemies,” it takes me back a little. The idea of actually loving them, doing good to them, and even praying for them seems a little — strike that — totally counterintuitive. They are harming me — remember?? Or at least harming someone. Maybe even lots of someones.
And yet here in a culture where the faithful, faithless, woke, ignorant, and all the other utter opposites agree that the social-political climate is divisive, tense and increasingly awful, I start to believe that maybe, truly, as said, we’ve gotten it all wrong.
We’ve justified creating enemies of the opposite. We’ve justified disdain of those who think differently. We’ve justified hate.
Perhaps in some conscious or unconscious way, the justification makes us feel better about ourselves. Perhaps insulating ourselves from the passion of the polar opposite allows us to never have to wrestle with the uncomfortable… that our opinion or passion might not be completely valid… or… that another’s might be equally valid… or… that even if another’s is inaccurate or perceived invalid, they are still deserving of love and respect.
… totally counterintuitive…
Love your enemy. Let them bring out the best in us and not the worst.