When I say that I am not sure what Youth Defence’s definition of love is, it’s not just a statement I’m making for rhetorical effect. It’s an honest expression of bafflement. If you’ve been anywhere in Ireland in the past week or so, it’s unlikely you’ve missed the posters- they’re everywhere. A large handprint with a smaller one inside it and the phrase “the only solution is to love them both?”.
I’m not sure what they mean by the question mark either. Youth Defence are not a group I’ve ever known to ask an honest question or give a straight answer. It could be that they’re appealing to the (imaginary) idea that we will see this as obvious or self evident. “Obviously, the only solution is to love them both?”, asked with a sense of wondering why on earth we’re having this conversation to start with.
I’m not sure what Youth Defence mean by love, but I’m almost certain that I don’t want it.
I don’t want the love of strangers. Love is a thing that I share with my closest friends, family, and partners. I love my parents, my Ladyfriend, some of my friends, my cat. I love the people who I am closest to. I figure that you probably do too. Love is a big word with big implications. It’s not a word that should be thrown around. Love is a word that describes something more than the everyday. Love states that this is a person with whom I feel a unique kind of connection and closeness. My love for a person isn’t something that’s inherent to them. It is the bond between us.
Love isn’t just a bond, though. It also asks things of us. If I say that I love someone I don’t just mean that I hold them in high regard and that I have strong feelings of affection for them. Love demands respect. I’ve found that no matter how warmly I feel towards a person there is no way I can call my feelings love unless I also respect them and their perspectives. Love is also about empathy, you see, and it’s difficult to take the point of view of a person you hold in contempt.
And love is about taking those feelings of closeness, affection and respect and becoming the ally of the person you love. We stand beside those we love. We’re their cheerleaders when the need it, we’re the people to take them aside and have a friendly and circumspect word with them when they are, as we’d say ‘round these parts, acting the maggot*.
I don’t love Youth Defence. No matter what they claim, they don’t love me.
What they call love, I call something else. Youth Defence don’t seem to understand that love is a special and particular thing. They don’t get that it comes with respect, dignity and listening to the other’s point of view. Their idea of love feels like a cloying thing. It’s the ‘love’ of an abuser who cries that you can never live without them, that if you walk out the door and leave them you’ll be nothing.
I don’t want love from strangers. I’m willing to bet that neither do you. What I want from strangers- what I’d be willing to bet that we all want- is an understanding of my equal dignity. I want strangers to accept that I, like them, am a person with the right to determine my own destiny. I want strangers to uphold my rights and expect me to uphold theirs. I want us to have an understanding that we work together to create a society where we all have these rights to support, self-determination and bodily integrity, and what we let love fall where it may.
I don’t want their love. I want respect not because of my unique human DNA or magical ‘soul’, but because I am a person. I have thoughts, wishes, dreams and fears and the ability to articulate them- something I share with every other person, a hell of a lot of members of different species (if you disagree with this I must introduce you to my cat), and no embryo on the planet.
There is no ‘Only Solution’, Youth Defence. There are millions of solutions to millions of issues faced by millions of people. Time for you to grow up and accept that.
edited to add: Oh my sweet & savoury Spaghetti Monster, I just realised how flippin’ creepy it is that they’re using the phrase “only solution”. I’ve managed to get through this so far without swearing but.. holy shiiiit, YD. What the everloving fuck do you think you’re doing?
*Free Hiberno-English lesson: that means being a douchebag. That’s right- a douchebag.