Today more than ever, love is in order.
As an Iranian-American Muslim woman of color living with a disability, I grieve for our country given the results of the latest presidential election. I was born in the United States. I love this nation. I have studied its laws and its flaws. As an author, attorney and activist, I have fought with my words and actions to make it a better place. But only recently have I come to realize that fighting isn’t enough. Love is in order.
As a longtime activist, I have spent decades fighting for justice and equality, often at a personal cost. I have received hate mail, death threats, rape threats and a seemingly endless array of nasty tweets, comments and Facebook messages. But worse than any of these has been the fact that for many years, my activism has often come exclusively from a place of ire and isolation. Today, I still ache and anger when I encounter injustice and bigotry. I still write, speak and show up in the street to protest it.
But something fundamental has changed for me as an activist and as a human being lately, something that has allowed me to survive this vicious and divisive political era, sometimes in tears, but with my heart intact. Today, I prioritize love.
For two years now, I have been on a delightfully peculiar pilgrimage of my own making, studying an ancient mystic Persian poet who has fundamentally changed my modern manic life.
Immersing myself in the verses of the 13th-century Sufi poet, Rumi, I’ve become reacquainted with timeless teachings in my own faith and culture that transcend both. Rumi advises,
Love’s nation of origin is separate from all creeds.
For the lovers, God comprises all religions and nationalities.
As a mystic, Rumi eschews borders, separations and divisions. Instead, he embraces unity, connectedness, and love. For him, ego is the ultimate saboteur. It makes us small and insecure, prone to arrogance and impermeable to love. It prevents us from connecting with each other and distances us from the Beloved—Who, ironically enough, rests within us.
Along this pilgrimage, I am learning to appreciate and implement Rumi’s teachings under the expert tutelage of my 71-year-old father. For both of us, it has been an adventure like none other—to the point that now, in the midst of writing a book about the experience, I can’t help but find Rumi everywhere. Today especially, I couldn’t feel more grateful for this new habit.
Upon hearing the election results, like so many around the world, I was shocked and appalled. I cried. I prayed. I paced. Soon enough though, true to form, Rumi came to my rescue. His words provided solace and succor in a moment of deep distress. You see, pretty much every part of my body, mind and soul experiences Donald Trump—that emotionally stunted xenophobic narcissist turned reality television star turned President-elect—as a visceral threat, ego incarnate.
But Rumi has given me an opportunity to cope with this threat and the desperation it has evoked: a chance to implement one of the many lessons I’ve learned on my perpetual pilgrimage, a journey into the past that could be neither more relevant nor more reassuring in the present.
In his six-volume masterpiece of more than 25,000 rhyming couplets, The Masnavi, Rumi counsels us thus:
Welcome every guest, no matter how grotesque.
Be as hospitable to calamity as to ecstasy, to anxiety as to tranquility.
Today’s misery sweeps your home clean, making way for tomorrow’s felicity.
And so today, I try to welcome the calamity known as Donald Trump and all the anxiety he evokes—in the hopes that he will inadvertently sweep our country clean of bigotry—presumably and paradoxically by bringing its horrifying consequences to life.
Considering the fact that so many Americans voted for this man, it’s clear that his vicious vitriol (often directed squarely at people who share my religion, gender and/or skin tone) represents a much wider problem in American society, one Rumi specialized in treating: disaffection.
Broken down, “dis” means “apart” or “away,” and affection means “love.” The implications of this sentiment, thus, spread far beyond politics. On so many levels, many of us have distanced ourselves from love. Our only hope for recovery—culturally, politically, personally and spiritually—is to reverse course. That is, to draw ourselves nearer to love and to draw our love nearer to those who lack it. In Rumi’s words:
If you’re in love with Love, don’t be bashful. Be brave and plant your flag.
So consider this me planting my flag in the middle of a disaster zone and inviting you to do the same—for today, more than ever, love is in order.