On this birthday of African-American writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who never got recognition in her life and who died poor and alone, let us recall her words, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” Yes, it is love that allows us to conquer our fears, embrace others and come out of darkness.
Late in life through many mistakes and meanderings, I have learned the exquisite truth of Ms. Hurston’s words both in our personal lives but as well in our politics. We often do the exact opposite remedy of what we need to do when we hide in a dark place. When we should reach with compassion and caring to build community around us, we hide with our angers and fears thinking this will protect us. We do the thing that most likely keeps us from hope and joy thinking it is the only way to secure our vulnerability. It won’t, and in fact, it will only make us fear more and fall deeper into darkness.
Our own hearts and souls are enhanced and emboldened if we have the courage to step out of the dark and into the light, and instead of loving less and hating more, our mission in relationships is to hate and hide less and love more. It is to walk towards the light and away from the dark that our fears prey on. In our personal relationships, when we think we need to shut down or shut out others, we must be brave enough to open up more and communicate our vulnerabilities. It is there we find the joy of living and the art of the dance we are all called to participate in.
And the same is true in our politics today. We think by staying angry, preying on our fears and the fears of others and fueling our hate, we can win political victories and make our country better. We think we can rebuild American values by strengthening our own tribe, knocking down others by whatever means at our disposal. That method will have the same effect in our politics that it does in our personal relationships: leaving us more broken, more bitter and with less love and light in our communities.
Each of us must strive to find the courage within us to come out of our hiding places, our tribes and our “protected” enclaves and reach out to others in more loving ways -- and with an openness that allows each of us to embrace vulnerabilities with an understanding of others' fears. The building of walls is not just a folly of delusional leadership related to our border, it is also the building of walls between all of us emotionally, spiritually and financially. Those walls we think guard us against our enemies actually grind away at our own humanity.
In times like this, I am looking for leaders at all levels who have the strength to respond with hope and love. This includes leaders not only in politics, but in business, community response, education and faith. I am heartened to see many of these leaders have risen around America in the last few years, and some were elected to office in 2018. I am optimistic their success will signal a new wave of the brand of leader our world so desperately needs and hungers for.
As the opening round of America choosing a president begins in earnest this month, I await the leader who expresses the power and purpose of love, as opposed to hate. The leader who emphasizes fixing the means of our politics through compassion, not just speaking about what ends they want to pursue.
Zora Neale Hurston also once wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The last few years have caused many of us to ask a lot of questions; I am enthusiastic and energized by the thought that we may be in a time for a few years of answers. Answers that call us all out of our hiding places and into the light of love.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.