Participation in recent conversations on FaceBook and elsewhere inspire reflection and confession: I don’t know how to love my enemies. That is the greatest ethical challenge of my life, but in this election cycle, I even have trouble knowing how to love my friends and how to avoid making them enemies. Challenges to my refusal to commit to voting for Hillary Clinton come at me throughout every day from both public and private sources. With these challenges, I feel powerful temptations to make enemies by lashing out with name calling, obscenities, withering sarcasm, or condemnations of personal and trivial weaknesses, real or imagined. Just like is coming from the presidential candidates and their respective supporters.
Often in the privacy of my own mind or with friends I know to be sympathetic I give in to these temptations, just like the candidates do. On some level, we must believe these responses to hurt feelings work, at least to relieve the hurt temporarily if not to resolve the conflict. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been targets of these kinds of enemy making. And both respond in kind, though one is much more accomplished, loud, and confident with blasting his many perceived enemies. Yesterday, I heard a TV news pundit say that daily relentless attack on Trump is what Clinton needs to do to win the election. It certainly seems to be working for Trump.
It makes me question my commitment to reasoned argument, respect for all stakeholders’ viewpoints even when I don’t agree with them, seeking common ground, and problem solving as the best way, long term, to resolve conflict and find solutions. That commitment has been my attempt to love my enemies. Both candidates believe they have solutions for the public, and neither in this contest has any interest in resolving conflicts between them. So winning, obviously, has to be the primary goal. As it is in any competition. That doesn’t seem to be working, that I can see, in solving the public problems.
All my ethical goals are at odds with winning as the top priority, and I only know that I won’t vote for Trump nor support him in any way. But how am I to love him? That is not a trivial question for me. There is not only him we have to worry about. There are all of his steadfast supporters. If we don’t find a way to respect the concerns of all those people, we will continue to have the desperate problems we need to solve.