An unlikely candidate for president of the United States, Marianne Williamson, recently announced that in our current tumultuous political climate, her goal would be to fight hate with love. The pundits made fun of her. I wonder why. Have we as a society become so cynical that idealism is a comical fantasy? Does it make us shift uncomfortably in our chairs when we hear words about loving one another?

In truth, loving one another is the basis of a healthy, happy, successful society. Instead of making fun of such advocacy, we should be promoting it. It’s not difficult to be respectful, to be deferential, to be courteous, to be kind and to lend an understanding ear. These are all forms of demonstrating love.

A good example of such simple, impactful expression is in the speech Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently gave to law students at Georgetown University.

“There is a very important first on the Supreme Court this term, and it’s thanks to our new justice, Justice Kavanaugh,” she said.

She reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh had hired an entirely female staff — all female clerks. She took this opportunity to compliment a would-be opponent who has emphatic differences of opinion. Her positive words undoubtedly will play a role in her future deliberations with him and with other colleagues.

It’s just that easy. We can all find ways to make life pleasant for others by being lovable instead of antagonistic. And we should look for ways to practice that quality without condition — no reciprocation required.

Teaching this kind of unrestricted positivity begins at the very basic levels of society — in the classroom and in the home.

I read a story about a teacher who asked her students to tell her what love means. “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day,” replied a 4-year-old.

Her answer describes not just love, but also unconditional love. Animals can be great teachers.

My brother-in-law Robert, a single man in his 50s, adopted a cat named Rocky. For Robert, who had never married, the beautiful Siamese cat was a great companion. Except for some exploratory disappearances from time to time — typical of an unneutered tomcat — Rocky was always by Robert’s side. Family and friends warned Robert to have the cat “fixed.” But he refused. Having been raised in a very controlling family, he wanted Rocky to live a life of unrestricted enjoyment.

In fact, Robert’s childhood was devoid of unconditional love. “If you practice the violin, we will love you. If you do well in school, we will love you. If you clean your room, we will love you,” was his parents’ implicit message.

Love with strings attached was really all he knew. Even as an adult, after moving away from home, his parents’ unspoken words were, “If you don’t come to our house for dinner, if you don’t show up for the family party, you’ll make us feel bad.”

After retiring at an early age and opening his own flower shop, Robert spent many hours alone, so he acquired Rocky. Rocky loved Robert. He would jump onto the work counter to sit and purr and watch as Robert assembled floral arrangements. They were constant companions, except for Rocky’s occasional expeditions, which likely enlarged the neighborhood feline population.

During one of those disappearances, Rocky was gone for a week. That extended period began to alarm Robert. He passed out flyers in the neighborhood. One neighbor’s phone call carried the bad news. The caller had witnessed Rocky’s death as he was hit by a passing motorist on a nearby thoroughfare.

Robert was devastated. He put together a beautiful, petite bouquet. He called my wife and me. His brother met us at Robert’s house in his dark blue Cadillac — suitable for a funeral cortege. Robert had attached a picture of Rocky to the note holder on the bouquet. The four of us climbed into the Cadillac and rode a few hundred feet to the site of the accident. Robert placed the flowers on the side of the road. He lit the small, glass-encased candle in the center of the floral piece. We stood for a moment of silence.

Why all the fuss? Why the extraordinary attachment to a cat? The answer is simple. Robert was responding to something he had seldom received as a child — unconditional love. Humans could learn a lesson from animals like Rocky.

Robert Hunter is director of The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University. He may be contacted at rhunter@weber.edu.

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