2013 – National High School 3rd Place

Megan Philippi, Maryland.

Which is more powerful, love or hate?

"Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love," wrote Spinoza. He described the cyclical trap in which hatred leads only to more hatred. Love alone, he claimed, could overcome this cycle. How does love defeat hate? Love—whether romantic or based on admiration and benevolence-can create change. It allows people to reach out to one another and seek understanding and in doing so, move beyond the routine of hatred. When love inspires understanding, people can come together, cooperate, and create something new. Hatred and destruction elicit only more hatred and destruction; nothing original or progressive can be created by hate. If power is the ability to produce an effect-or change-then literature and current events show clearly that love is more powerful than hate.

Many of Shakespeare's works indicate that he believed love was more powerful than hate. In his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, love is the driving force behind every change in the plot. When the characters find true love (with the help of a magical flower), the hatred and conflict of the first scene is resolved and there is finally order, happiness, and the promise of a better life for everyone involved. The theme of love's power over hate is perhaps even more apparent in Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Generations of hatred and violence between the Capulet and Montague families can only be overcome when Romeo and Juliet sacrifice their lives for love.

The cyclical trap of hatred can be seen daily in the news from Israel; less visible, but ultimately more powerful, are the small acts of love that show change is possible. Every time violence arises between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the retaliatory attacks lead only to more hatred and later conflicts. What else could come about as a result of hate? It is clear why the country is caught in that repetition. As Confucius said, "It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love." Progress in the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis can only occur through the love that comes from mutual understanding. I recently heard a talk given by two high school students—one Israeli and one Palestinian—from a school where they learn both Arabic and Hebrew. Every day at school the students learn to understand each others' perspectives. Their families get involved in the conversation, as well. Political leaders in Israel and Palestine can expect change only once they, like these students, parents, and teachers, make the effort to love.

Love is far more powerful than hate because of its ability to influence change. Love creates new alliances between people, which allow collaboration and creation to flourish. Hate can lead to nothing new, only to the self-perpetuating cycle of destruction and revenge. This truth has been demonstrated repeatedly in history and literature. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it."

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