This week, I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "Love Trumps Hate." And that means, as it so often does when I'm thinking about love, that I've been thinking about my parents. Nowadays, when I think of my parents and their enduring love - they met in high school and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary - I think, too, of my attempt at enduring love that didn't work out (I refuse to use the word "failed") and why I hope that in that reality, too, love will eventually trump hate.
But let's start with my parents. They grew up in the South. In the 1940s and 1950s. They went to college in the 1960s. By the time they got married, I was born, and my dad started law school, the free love movement - and the drugs and hippies and dropping out that went along with it - was well underway.
My parents didn't use drugs. They weren't hippies - they were probably what many would have called "straight-laced." They didn't drop out. In so many ways, they followed the traditional life path of getting married, buying a house, having children, working hard in a career for 40 years, retiring, enjoying their grandchildren.
But - and this is what you have to know them to understand - in so many ways, my parents were anything but traditional. Yes, they grew up in the largely segregated South. But they always encouraged my sister and brother and me to be respectful of people of other races. They were heterosexual through and through. But they supported the (then mostly closeted) gay friends they had, including one of my dad's law partners, who died of AIDS a few years after the epidemic started. They were Jewish in a largely Protestant community. Together, they decided to encourage their kids to go away to school, when pretty much everyone else's children flocked to the University of Texas or Texas A&M. My parents thought you could learn a lot by getting outside your own, comfortable, limiting box. And they lived what they preached. They sat on boards and volunteered and campaigned. And they didn't do it for show. Like the hippies, they really thought the world could be better. They thought we could achieve peace. They were willing to do what it took to make it that way.
When I was growing up in Texas in the 1970s, I had no idea how remarkable my parents were. I thought they were too strict (yes, in many ways we could not escape the "traditional family" mold), and I rebelled in my own, I'm too cool for school way. It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I understood that I hadn't stumbled upon my progressive values and principles. I'd been taught them every day of my life, even during a time when my parents surely faced some hate, lost some friends, were not invited to some social events, because they didn't believe what everyone else in their "circle" believed.
And that's why, when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last summer, I sent them to Denver.
If you know my parents, you'll think that was a weird choice. They live in Boulder, Colorado, only about 45 minutes away from Denver, and they're likely to head into the "big city" for a haircut or a really good enchilada. Their 50th anniversary? Not so much.
But there were two reasons why Denver was exactly the right place.
One was The Sound of Music.
The other was the Hotel Teatro.
They were right across the street from each other.
They were just what my parents needed.
I've written before about the national tour of The Sound of Music. To say that it's a can't-miss production is a little bit of an understatement. But that's not what I want to tell you right now, right here.
I'd never thought about it before I saw this production last March, just before Donald Trump succeeded in winning his party's nomination for President of the United States, but The Sound of Music is about love trumping hate.
Captain Von Trapp falls in love with Maria. But he also loves his country, the Austria he's always known. He doesn't just leave his country to save his family. He refuses - at great risk to himself and his children - to fall into line with Hitler's plan. And, in doing so, he teaches his children an important lesson. Love trumps hate. And if hate is knocking at your door, fight it; refuse to serve in the Navy, or in the administration, or on the campaign. Try to change people's minds. Work to make a difference. Show your countrymen the beauty in the world, in Edelweiss, in music, in family, in love.
And if all that fails to work, get the hell out. And affect change somewhere else.
As for the Hotel Teatro, that was the destination. Get the hell out of this crazy world in which the reality is that a sexist hatemonger can lead. Go somewhere better, even for a night. The historic hotel reflected perfectly what I wanted to say to my parents: many beautiful things get better with age, even as they change. The hotel, which started out as a mansion, turned into an office building and a part of a university and finally a place for respite still boasts the old marble beauty and classic style. But it's updated to accept the realities of modern living. Its skeleton is made of steel - it isn't going anywhere. But its furnishings are soft and comfortable. The rooms are classic, with leather tufted headboards and fine linens - but they are updated with wifi and great showers. It's enduring.
My parents deserved a rest and an acknowledgment of their lifelong love. They got it with fine food and a comfortable bed and a show and a night away from it all.
Last Wednesday, my father called me, sounding about as sad as I've ever heard him. He just couldn't believe that our country was going to be led by someone who spread hate with abandon, who knew nothing of lifelong love for partner or country. He asked me to cancel the DC hotel rooms we'd booked for the inauguration of the first female President.
And he reminded me this: If hate is knocking at your door, do your best to change it. Try to find the beauty in the world. Try to change others' minds. Make a difference. Give it your all.
But if all of that fails to work, it is OK to get the hell out, to find a place of respite.
And that's where I am now. As I work through the reality of divorce, where anger and disillusionment have displaced love, as I try to figure out my role in being the kind of change I want to see in this world, as I teach my children to love, not hate, I think of my parents. If I can do half of what they have, mine will have been a life well lived. I may not have managed to love for 50 years. But that doesn't stop me from starting again, somewhere new, and finding a new way.
Love trumps hate. Even when that's not the popular view.
Love trumps hate. Even when others tell you you're wrong.
Love trumps hate. Even when someone excludes you, or hates you, or wishes bad things for you.
Love trumps hate. For fifty years.
Love trumps hate. In the end, that's all we have.