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Post-Election Patriotism and Radical Love

“I woke up feeling less of a lover. We won’t last, but I like to imagine.” –Tinashe, Nightride

New Romantix

We were elite, colored, guarded, and beautiful. We made safe spaces and cried in them for no reason or for the simple reason that they existed. It was possible for a world this tense to be this pretty, the art to be this good, and for once, our art stopped being so angry. Chance used God tones, and Rihanna said “you got me like ahh” instead of “I am not a victim,” and we shifted from “black is beautiful” to “in moonlight black boys look blue.” We were sentimental and heartless with ourselves, and white people were listening to us too. We practiced radical love, which is a kind of God-love, the love that makes you feel good doing it, the love that’s unreciprocated and nonspecific and definitely okay, the love that disqualifies you from being a hardo, the love that forces you to snap at open-mics and gets you to dance salsa even if you don’t know how to with girls and boys and girl-boys and boy-girls, the Maya-Angelou kind of love, the love that’s so present you don’t need a past, the drunken love, the love that makes you cry at the anthem.

The day before the election, Tinashe posted a picture half-smiling, baby blue fingernails, and candid with the caption “HAPPY cuz my new music is out & Donald Trump is finally gonna lose tomorrow.” The day after, my roommate corrected me, saying we were now post-Obama, not Trump’s America, because black presidents create whitelash, and whiny kids don’t invent countries so we should stop giving them all the credit. I listened to Nightride for the first time, which was spooky enough for the day. Pitchfork called it “strictly after-hours,” but the reviewer was probably a little too old and white to figure that being an ice-cold bitch is more of a lifestyle than an aesthetic choice.

Is the radical love that made me feel so good enough? I always hypothesized that the trope was driven by some need to be both sexy and independent, which is important when you have control over only your own body. But even that idea is contested. The racism and sexism in this country is apparent enough for the trope to really mean something, and even though icons like Rihanna and Tinashe are adorned in spaces of radical love, there is something difficult about how the tension builds, something incongruous about a community that expresses that it is both ready to love indiscriminately and too defensive and noncommittal to actually do it on an individual basis. Like we spread love too thin it broke. We romanticized everything too much and related to them all no matter how much they contradicted, from dreams of brotherly love to our inability to love, from our readings of Dubois as too old-school (i.e., How am I supposed to navigate both my double-consciousness and his double-consciousness?) to our readings of Beyoncé as queen.

The last time I went to an open mic, I came out unconvinced of radical love’s truthfulness because the place was a sick kind of sweet, positive but through-the-roof. The venue was beautiful; the music was great; the people were dancing. But it wasn’t enough, I think, to be real. Because I still left more defensive than before, unable to view myself or the others in the room as capable. Our thoughts were not radical enough for the radical nature of the love we wanted, because our concerns were human. Our positivity was a sheen that did little to distract me from the ache of my country. Because I am older now, wiser. And I want, now more than ever, a love that means something.

The day after the election, in Protest Literature lecture, Professor McCarthy talked to us about James Baldwin—gay, black—who loved this country so much that his love was directly tied to hate, so much that he grew too sick of it to stay here. Until his death in France, he continued to write, hate, admire, criticize, speak about, drink off, and love this country. In some ways, I think I understand more that kind of love, the parasitical kind related to country, because I have seen its impacts more than the radical love rooted in dreams. How I defensively felt, along with Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison and my sister and my parents and my acquaintances, that I belonged here and only here, in my skin and only my skin. I was obsessed with a problem that I needed to convince others was systemic, to convince them that my sensitivity was not my weakness. So I am slowly redefining, to myself, the type of love that is necessary to exist in this country. I want love that creates language rather than erases it.

In discussions of our country, it is necessary to describe what associations, what love, we must have with it in order to survive. Whether our love should be passive or active, temporary or permanent. Whether it should be all-encompassing or specific, whether we look far or near. But I do know now that love for this country should not feel good, but it’s the kind that forces you to stay. It still stands when you walk out of the room, even if you move out of the country. It’s the kind that surpasses beauty because it survives.


Christina M. Qiu ‘19 lives in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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