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Is loving everyone even possible?

In his speech at the Democratic convention Monday, Senator Cory Booker declared, “We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love.”

Reason’s Robby Soave took exception, saying Booker had it exactly backwards:

The American project is not about forcing everyone to love each other. Such a thing would be impossible. The United States is a melting pot of different ethnic and religious groups—many of whom actually hate each other. Trying to force everyone to get along is a recipe for disaster.

“Thankfully, our Constitution does not require us to love everyone,” Soave explains. “It requires us to extend tolerance—and equal rights—to everyone, even people we despise.”

Soave is right. Trying to simply love everyone would be impossible, not to mention somewhat naïve, particularly if anyone proposed doing so through force of law. Our Constitution upholds and enforces a broad tolerance for all groups as law, and that’s part of what really does make America great.

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But there’s still an important point to what Booker said (and Michelle Obama said better), even if the platitudinous senator himself doesn’t necessarily understand it and was just trying to say things that sound nice.

I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who once said (I couldn’t locate the quote) that he loved his mother more than he loved all other mothers. People would think he was strange if he loved my or your mother more than he loved his own.

It makes sense that he would love what is his, first and most.

Love is specific. To love everything would mean loving nothing. It would negate the concept. You love, or should love, others in an order typically prioritized by their closeness to you — your family, friends, city, state, country and perhaps planet — in that order.

It has always bothered me that Americans don’t get as upset about innocent children being bombed by a U.S. drone as they do when mass tragedies happen on our own soil.

It bothers me, but I understand. It’s just how we’re wired.

We will always love our own group, however defined, more than others. But can we show some love toward other groups, even those most distant from us?

We can try. We should try.

The larger question probably should be: What should be our default position, as individuals and as a nation?

There will always be insiders and outsiders in any society. We will always typically love insiders more and outsiders less.

Again, it’s just how we’re wired.

For Donald Trump, the insiders are working Americans who are getting a raw deal from elites. There is substance to that criticism. Most importantly, it is resonating with millions of Americans, particularly poor whites.

Who are Trump’s outsiders? Immigrants, Muslims and black activists. A good portion of his speech was praising his insiders and attacking his perceived outsiders.

For the Democratic leaders, who are the insiders and who are the outsiders? If you’re Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren (as well most Democrats, to varying degrees), the insiders are the working class and poor, and outsiders are anyone who dares to achieve anything using free market capitalism.

Or maybe conservative Christians. Or white people. Or Uber. Or the “patriarchy” (insert your favorite social justice warrior cliché).

The left has plenty of bogeymen.

But for Cory Booker and Michelle Obama on Monday, if focusing just on their speeches, the outsiders were anyone who demeans immigrants, Muslims, blacks or any minority needlessly and hatefully.

It’s the one part of the Democrats’ program Monday I could fully agree with.

America has an imperfect past, like most nations, but at our best we have embraced outsiders and sought to give opportunities to the weakest among us.

There are limits to this. We can’t ignore illegal immigration. We can’t ignore radical Islam. We can’t ignore an environment in which irresponsible rhetoric gets cops killed.

But the outsiders in our society, a healthy American society, should be anyone with illiberal attitudes toward immigrants, or Muslims, or urban blacks — or cops — and who stokes hatred toward entire groups habitually by default.

The default should be compassion, understanding, and yes, even love.

This isn’t just misty-eyed wishing. We’ve done this.

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Coming from the right, I’ll note that President George W. Bush went out of his way to not attack but to praise Islam in the wake of 9/11. My former boss Congressman Ron Paul was for border security but emphasized that we should never scapegoat immigrants, illegal or otherwise. My former boss Senator Rand Paul has reached out to black communities throughout his career. Senator Ted Cruz even acknowledged the pain of Alton Sterling’s family in his Republican conventions speech last week.

Many on the right and left, in moments of national upheaval, choose to bash these groups and individuals. Bush, the Pauls and Cruz last week opted for something more compassionate.

This should happen more. It should be our default.

Is it possible to love everyone? No human being is capable of that. Only God is.

But we can begin to see America’s insiders as those eager to show understanding and compassion and outsiders as those eager to reject it.

America, love it or leave it.

Disclosure: I worked for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.

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