The Triumph of Love and Activism Over Tragedy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

With Valentine’s Day behind us, we are filled with mixed emotions.  Some people in relationships are thrilled because their love in thriving.  Others are sad because the romance in their lives languished, ended, and now they are heartbroken.  If we look at “Critical Love Studies,” (April 2017, Journal of Popular Romance Studies), we see in perspective the many forms of love. This Valentine’s Day 2018 we witnessed neighborly and community love filled with pain that has left many people across this country heartbroken. The loss of children in Florida helps us to embrace a broader view of love as we hold the families, friends, and neighbors of victims in our hearts.

According to the editors:

Critical Love Studies, therefore, “refrains from offering a single definition of love. As shorthand, we stick with phenomenological descriptors such as parental love, sibling love, romantic (or intimate) love, neighborly love or the more abstract loves for one’s community, a sports team or country.”

Although this was initially to be a way of looking at Valentine’s Day in a romantic context, it was difficult to write about ways of showing love, gratitude, and kindness without discussing the pain of love lost.  Michael Gratzke, Ph.D., is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Hull. He notes “each occurrence of love should be judged against the backdrop of the socio-historic circumstances in which a set of love acts is performed.” And he says:

“Firstly, that we cannot grasp the full potentiality of love (it is always yet to come); secondly that love is performative (it needs to come into being in individual occurrences of love); thirdly that changes to the ways in which people experience and represent love happen through countless iterations of ‘love acts.’” He likens love acts to speech act theory and argues that they occur in the contexts of normative frameworks which make them intelligible.”

Yes, this is an academic look at love portrayed in literary studies and social sciences, however, as pointed out,  “the aim of Critical Love Studies, ‘is to do justice to experiences and representations of love in their normativity as well as in their individuality.’”

In other words, we all express love in our own individual ways. For some this Valentine’s Day was one of hearts and flowers.  For others it was tragedy.  And yet one student showed the ultimate love — he died saving others. Young Peter Wang, wearing his gray JROTC uniform, was apparently holding open doors so classmates could run to safety. 

Today there seems to be a resounding, unifying love being expressed by classmates of the Florida victims. This love and anger and resolve is driving the young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School into an activism that is reminiscent of the coming together of people challenging our government to end the war in Vietnam.  Suddenly a nation divided by presidential bullying and offensive Tweets is looking at life – a better life for everyone in this country.

As for the conspiracy theorists, the NRA, and the politicians who shamelessly pander to those who have paid for their seats in government, we rely on Shakespeare’s quote “Murder will out,” and the love of survivors for their classmates.

Despite the pain the young people from Parkland, Florida are experiencing, they are marching and speaking out through their activism. In many ways it is their new found language of love.

Copyright 2018 Rita Watson


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