With apologies to lyricist Tim Rice, I don’t know how to love you.
I have struggled with our relationship for the past four years, and now I am convinced that you are out to destroy everything I hold dear. I suspected it four years ago, and I communicated my concerns with you then, receiving silence in response. Even my fervent appeals for you to explain yourselves to me, to share your humanity with me, were ignored.
And now, after we have watched in horror the life we have known and loved, the life we have promulgated, the life at least two of our cousins have died to protect, teetering on the precipice of dissolution, you send me greetings of “Happy Holidays” and “Peace on Earth.”
I am not “happy,” and there is no “peace.” You are living in another reality, except that it’s not real, except that it’s real only insofar as it threatens life as we know it. And so I must take it seriously, even though any reasonable person would dismiss your position as idiocy and hypocrisy.
The hard part for me is that I love you, or I used to. I have come to realize that loving you is destructive, not only to me but to all that I hold dear. And that includes my children and grandchildren.
So, what do I do with you?
My wise and weathered daughter sent me the astonishing debut novel by Nathan Hill, “The Nix,” for Christmas. The character Pwnage is an avid online gamer who categorizes problem people — both in games and in life — into four categories: enemy, obstacle, puzzle, or trap. Which are you? I need to know so I can move forward in whatever game this is that we are playing.
If you’re an enemy, that’s easy: I kill you, according to Pwnage. Except that I’m against violence, and I don’t own a gun. If you’re an obstacle, I have to find a way around you. The problem is that you’re still out there, threatening everything I hold dear.
You’re a puzzle, to be sure. I cannot make sense of you, though I thought I knew you. You have never articulated the reasons for your loyalties; I suspect it’s because you cannot. The problem is that puzzles can fool you, and they become traps. Either way, I cannot dismiss you, as your position is dangerous.
I don’t know how to love you, and I’m beginning to believe it’s dangerous to try.
Which goes against the grain of all that we were brought up to believe. You remember? We sat together in church and Sunday School. We prayed together, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But what if my neighbor is trying to destroy everything I hold dear? What if you, the one I love, or thought I loved, or used to love, would take away the futures of my grandchildren?
I can’t let that happen.
But, as I said, I don’t own a gun. And I have tried to reason with you, to convince you, to even have a conversation with you. You are unyielding. Reason versus — what? Illusion?
Four years ago, I was still hopeful you might be persuaded, that you might see the fallacy, that you might see the danger. But now, four years later, you are seduced by it, even promoting it.
You and those who think like you have called me a hater. I am not. I am a lover — of justice, respect, honesty, and truth. I am a lover of life. And I will defend it to my dying breath.
The Rev. David Tryggestad of Duluth is a retired pastor and a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.