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One of my favorite pastimes is driving while listening to music. Because the traffic is minimal in the winter months, it is a perfect time to indulge myself on a trip to nowhere in particular.

Recently on one such excursion, I heard an oldie but goodie, “What the World Needs Now is Love,”written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach.  It brough me  back to simpler times.  However, from my vantage point on that day, it sure seemed that love was in the air.  

I mean,  really, one has to be obtuse not to notice the color “red” splashed around our towns and hamlets.  Advertisements for romantic dinners,  red roses, valentine candy boxes, boxer shorts with red hearts, teddy bears and  themed valentine cards are a few tokens we gift each other to show our love.

Maybe you will be a recipient of red roses or perhaps you will buy them for yourself. Hopefully, I will get red roses and chocolate. If not I will certainly consider them splurge-worthy if not forthcoming.  Some folks disavow Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark and retail holiday.  I get that — one cannot buy love. 

Expressions  of love are always in vogue. We show love to our partner, spouse, children,  grandkids and friends—or should.  Certainly in affairs of the heart loving words should not be reserved to February 14!  This begs a question: what happens to love on February 15? 

Nowadays, I’m just not feeling the love. I am stunned by the vitriol and harsh remarks that now seem commonplace in our society .  We have instructed our children (at least I did) not to call people names. Yet, we hear name-calling from those who should know better.

The country is not feeling the love either, judging from the posts in social media. The news media pundits will spread false information to gain more viewers.  These platforms worsen the division between us. And we, the people, do not expose ourselves to other points of view.  We watch or listen to information that confirms our beliefs.  

Americans have never been more polarized than they are today.  There are stark disagreements on policing, immigration, economy, racial justice,  and climate change.  I wonder if there is a topic we all can agree on.

If our Congress resorts to kindergarten tactics like insults and  mud-slinging do we have to join in the fray and dirty ourselves?  As adults I believe we can do better than this.  

A few months ago, I was seated next to a gal at a lecture series. We hit it off at once, so much so, that we had lunch a couple of months ago. While we were enjoying lunch and getting to know each other, the topic of politics reared its head.

I was to learn that she and I were most times on opposite ends of the political spectrum—sometimes we met somewhere in the middle. She didn’t grow two heads or turn into a monster and neither did I.  We came to understand, we got along fine, despite our political differences.  I had lunch with her again before filing this column. 

My son has moved his family to Santa Fe New Mexico while on a new government detail.  My Santa Fe family has learned the richness of Spanish culture—a culture where my family is in the minority.

Jeffrey,  my daughter-in-law Cassandra,  and my grandkiddos Luca and Nova have not felt any prejudice when moving to their new home.  Luca’s best friend is a native New Mexican.

I am delighted their friendship lends itself to learning from each other. Luca can now speak a smattering of Spanish and his friend is enjoying meatballs and spaghetti.  A win-win don’t you think?

It is important to recognize that in spite of our differences, we all share our common humanity. We should strive to find mutuality and work together for a better future for everyone. 

Imagine a world where we championed our differences instead of igniting culture wars?   How about using  diplomacy instead of my-way-or-the-highway attitude  that has seeped into society?  How about not using human lives as bargaining chips? 

The following lyrics to the aforementioned song  “What the World Needs Now is Love”  could revolutionize our world:

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of—no not just for some, but for everyone.”

Love is a verb — a powerful action word. Love can create bridges instead of walls.  Acting with love can allow for compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.  Acting with love can cancel mean spiritedness and the “gotcha” mindset. 

Folks, imagine that if we practiced love—not the just  February 14 kind, we could become active participants in changing the world for the better.  

Composers  Burt Bacharach & Hal David  were on to something back in 1965.  Maybe love is the one thing on which we can all agree.

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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.