[Editor’s Note: American Tunes is a series of posts dedicated to songs that address America’s social and political challenges. For more information on the series, click here.]
I dunno about you, but given the way January 20 has been looming — ominously, darkly — on the horizon, the days before then have seemed unusually pregnant and worthy of cherishing. Today, especially, given that Martin Luther King Jr. preached lessons of love, progress, and decency that have, unfortunately, become urgently relevant of late. Holding up his example seems crucial, which is why I’m posting “Will You Love Me” — a song from Matthew E. White’s debut album that gently adjusts a King quotation on loving your enemies and refusing to co-opt despair:
Darkness can’t drive out darkness
Only love can do that
The original quote — “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” — appears to have first been said in a 1957 sermon, though it can also be found in King’s book Strength to Love. As it happens, I heard the very same quote at my mom’s church this past Sunday, when the rector included it in his sermon. With all the ugliness of the 2016 election, it may seem harder than ever to live up to King’s compassionate, loving example, but these words exude a deep, unchanging truth that’s bigger than any one politician, businessman, or political party, and I truly believe they represent the most direct line between where we are and where we need to go.