Love Is Not Whatever You Want It to Be

Alex Duke | June 12, 2017

In what seems like eons ago, under a different political dispensation than the one we’re experiencing now, then-President Barack Obama tweeted the following:

Retweet if you believe everyone should be able to marry the person they love. #LoveIsLove

I’m not writing here about the wisdom or morality of same-sex marriage. Instead, I mention the former president’s tweet as a trampoline to a larger conversation about our definition of love. While perhaps catchy and tweetable, the sentence “Love is love” is both meaningless and weightless, unable to accomplish anything or persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with the assumptions of the speaker.

Not Play-Doh

Of course, crude definitions like this are of the zeitgeist, where virtues such as authenticity and self-actualization reign. If it’s indeed true that “love is love,” then it’s also true that we’ve become love’s arbiter and our intuitions about it are above reproach, beyond the prying tentacles of laws and institutions and others’ arcane opinions.

But using language like this stretches and re-stretches important concepts into utter subjectivism. The result: love is emptied of its meaning and weight, and subsequently replaced by a lesser good—something ersatz and manmade, something wobbly and even capricious. “Love” is now a universal term for nothing in…

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