Care and Maintenance #3: With Love
“You can’t love me if you don’t love politically.” — Jericho Brown
This is a legacy post from my previous, somewhat short-lived newsletter, Care and Maintenance.
Hello on a chilly but sunny Friday morning. How are you holding up? Are you making preparations to stay safe and healthy next week? My own plan involves a lasagna.
The poet Jericho Brown has said, “You can’t love me if you don’t love politically.”
A gut reaction to this thought might cause some—especially near the end of this election season—to see a political love as a narrow sort of love. A love contingent on candidates and policy and yard signs. But what might read to the more jaded among us as a reduction of personhood is actually an expansion.
Asked to reflect on his words in a recent interview with On Being, Brown said:
There’s something in us that wants to really take people down to some sort of census report, I guess; and I’m not interested in census reports. I’m interested in how you got here today and how you managed to do your makeup in the car in order to do it. I’m interested in that. I’m interested in the fact that you got two kids, and you’re getting married, and now you’re pregnant, and you’re going to have another kid, and you’re trying to figure out how these kids are all going to call each other sister and brother.
And so I think what Brown means by loving politically is loving laterally. Loving not just who people are, but loving them in a way that understands how they came to be who they are. Put another way, he might just as easily have said, you can’t love me if you don’t love historically. If your love is not fed by the context in which I live. If your actions are not informed by the forces that brought us here.
“I have a history,” Brown finished. “I have an ancestry, and you gotta take all of that if you’re coming with me, that’s what we’re taking with us. And I’m going to take that part of you, as well.”
Look, it’s four days until voting ends, and many more days until all the votes are counted. I know we’re tired. I’m tired. But in the middle of this national anxiety, it’s helpful to remember:
Politics is a way for us to show love to our neighbors.
Not only that, but to love our neighbors is to be political. If you’re on the fence about voting, or who to vote for, I gently suggest that to remove yourself from politics is to diminish your capacity to love.
Every day we maneuver through systems. School systems. Medical systems. Police systems. If you think you’re apolitical, it’s only because you’re comfortable within these systems. Many others are not. You are being well served by policies that were built for you at the expense of women, of Black people, of the LGBTQ community. Understanding this context, loving laterally, and acting upon it, is a profoundly human act.
“Political apathy is not a neutral stance, but a strongly conservative one, almost by definition,” the writer Can Duruk said in a recent essay. It’s an impulse that arises out of material and bodily comfort with the way things are. The knowledge that you will be okay if things stay the same, even if many others won’t.
This is a newsletter about care and maintenance. Sometimes care is revolutionary. Sometimes maintenance is a dismantling. Voting is a way to adjust the mechanics of the world, if only by degrees, so that it can better serve everyone.
We need you to vote.
Vote with love.
I’m voting for Biden and Harris, and I hope you will too. It does matter and it will make a difference. Make a voting plan at iwillvote.com