In April 1965, a young Oregon student was rushing to attend an anti-war rally. Diane Newell Meyer, then 22, had prepared no placard, so she quickly grabbed an envelope and pinned it to her chest having just scrawled upon it the words, “Make Love, Not War”. The slogan drew attention, as things affixed to young bosoms are wont to, and was reproduced throughout the era of Vietnam War protest on millions of buttons and protest signs, and at least one dreary John Lennon song.
I’m not at all sure this would have sat well with me. The idea of love as an antidote to war is not a sound one. Patriotism, the ardent love of nationhood, is, in fact, effective fuel for combatants and a great pretext for leaders who still speak today about their “empathy” in the prelude to acts of war. Buddhism, the religion of loving compassion, can exempt its most holy practitioners from ethical norms, permitting and promoting extreme violence in the name of love. At our own trivial level, many might attest that those with whom we “make love” are also those with whom we argue most aggressively about whose turn it is to take out the garbage.