Hate Actually

“General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.”

From “Love Actually” (2003).

Anyone exposed to the seasonal tide of holiday films likely recognizes those opening lines from “Love Actually,” voiced by actor Hugh Grant, who also plays the fictional bachelor British prime minister. He looks at airport arrivals around Christmas and sees only joy and laughter, hugs and kisses, tears and jubilation. He even reminds viewers that callers from the planes that hit the Twin Towers on 9/11 offered messages of love, not hate or revenge; that “love actually is all around.” How quaint. How life-affirming. How different from our current reality.

With one week left before Christmas, it doesn’t feel like the arrivals gate at Heathrow, it feels more like Bedford Falls without George Bailey. By week’s end, about one-quarter of the federal government may be shut down with thousands of federal workers sent home without pay because Congress won’t capitulate to President Donald Trump’s demand to build an unnecessary wall at the nation’s southern border. It’s a boondoggle his own political party wouldn’t grant him during the last two years, but he’s taking a stand with Democrats weeks away from controlling the House? It’s as if someone just wants to stoke his political base and ruin the holiday for the families of civil servants.

And speaking of the man in the high White House castle, he can be a bit thin-skinned. Have you heard? But even by Trumpian standards his Sunday morning tweet regarding a Saturday Night Live sketch was something of a revelation for someone who swore to uphold the Constitution (even that inconvenient First Amendment part). SNL’s opening sketch, “It’s a Wonderful Trump,” was a parody of “It’s a Wonderful Life” if Mr. Trump had never been elected president. (Spoiler alert: Everyone in the Trump circle is better off; even Brett Kavanaugh, who happily gets to spend more time with his Georgetown Prep pals P.J. and Squee). It seems the skit didn’t set well with the title character.

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” the still-president posted at 7:58 a.m.

And then there was the business of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president’s description, and not for the first time, of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, as a “rat.” That’s a term popularized by mafia figures describing government witnesses — usually co-conspirators now willing to tell the truth in court for the prosecution. Using terms like “rat” puts the president of the United States on par with the infamous “Stop Snitching!” video that made the rounds in Baltimore 14 years ago. “Snitches get stitches” and all that.

Add to this the House’s failure to follow the Senate’s lead and call for an end to U.S. support for genocide in Yemen and demand true accountability in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and you have to wonder, when do things start to look cheerful and bright? The trade war with China? U.S. failure to take climate change seriously? Mass shootings? Oceans filled with discarded plastic? Wobbly stock and bond markets?

And yet there are little bits and pieces. Not in the lead stories, perhaps, but maybe beyond the pages of the local newspaper, next door or down the street. A long-awaited adoption goes through. A spouse survives a cancer scare. A puppy is rescued. Degrees are conferred. Promotions are granted. Addicts turn their lives around. There is always hope. It’s something we know a bit about in Baltimore where we remain on track for 300 murders this year but still like to think that a new police commissioner can change all that.

Maybe “Love Actually” is just escapist fare on Netflix, a light comedy that just wants us to feel good for a couple of hours while bad news hovers all around. But it also touches a truth about us or it wouldn’t be so popular. To quote that other holiday film, “Remember, George: No man is a failure who has friends.” Maybe Clarence might also point out that no man is a failure who holds onto hope that things can get better. Besides, there’s still a week to go for love to show up on the front page.

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