Love Is Powerful. So Is Hate.

Laura Nelson
6 min readAug 16, 2021
Georges Rouault, Wikimedia commons

Dilige, et quod vis fac. [Love, and do what you will.]” — St. Augustine of Hippo, Easter Sunday Sermon, 407 CE

When asked about my political position, I will sometimes reply “somewhere between a Social Democrat and a Democratic Socialist.” Since that is quite vague, and also a mouthful, I usually tag myself as a “polite radical.”

It’s a description I copped from the late George Carlin, who used it once when hosting his own short-lived late-night talk show on ABC. He was talking politics with the late actress Shelley Winters. It was during the waning of the Nixon years, where confidence in American institutions was beginning its slide down to the Stygian depths where it rests today. The Vietnam War and racial unrest raged on. Winters was advocating an end to bigotry and warfare, which would be definitively solved by electing liberal Democrats up and down-ticket: she came across as well-meaning but self-important and more than a little naïve. Knowing Carlin’s opposition to the war, his parsing of “military intelligence” as “a contradiction in terms”, his troubles with government censorship of his “Seven Dirty Words”, and his evident sympathies for the Left, she kept referring in her dialogue to “liberals like us.” Carlin, clearly annoyed at her self-righteousness and oblivion of the fact that liberals as well as conservatives were responsible for the Vietnam war, patiently and politely interrupted: “I do not consider myself a liberal. I think of myself as a polite radical.”

Wikimedia Commons

Carlin respected Winters. Both confessed to admiring each other: “you don’t act; you’re real.” But politically, they hailed from different universes, and Carlin knew it. Winters and Carlin both loathed the Right, which was as virulently hateful then as it is now. But Carlin lacked the illusions that Winters harbored: that legislation, mixed with a bit of mildly paternalistic love, will do the trick and win the hearts and minds of the belligerent and bigoted. Winters believed in the power of persuasion. So did Carlin, I think — he was, by his own admission, a “polite” radical, one who did not return hate with hate amplified. But he was also convinced that sometimes one does not just…

Laura Nelson

Writer, philosopher, information technologist,guitarist, neurotic, polite radical, avid and indiscriminate reader, Episcopalian, trans woman.