This Election Season, Hope is Hard

Valarie Kaur's #TangibleHope Diary

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”

Valarie Kaur, filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, activist and Sikh thought leader, responds:

Sometimes hope is hard to see.

This election season, rage and fear have dominated American politics. Communities of color have been vilified, shamed, and intimidated; hate groups have increased for the first time in five years, and reports of hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans have tripled.

This election season, hope is hard.

But my Sikh faith teaches us the spirit of Chardi Kala ever-rising optimism and revolutionary love even in darkness.

For me, this means I must fight despair with optimism each day. And when I do this, I begin to see signs of #TangibleHope all around me.

I see this in my family friend Rana Sodhi.

On September 15, 2001, Rana’s brother Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh father who lived and worked in Arizona, was the first of dozens killed in hate crimes in the aftermath of 9/11. Since then, Rana and I — along with a generation of activists — have fought to end hate in America.

But 15 years of activism could not prevent this era of enormous rage. So to test our own ability to love this election season, Rana Sodhi and I did something we had never done before.

We called his brother’s murderer in prison — and Rana forgave him.

It was the first step down a long and difficult road toward reconciliation. But in a time when America is grappling with a seemingly endless cycle of violence — terrorism followed by hate violence, followed by another terror attack and even more violence — Rana’s example models a kind of love that breaks the cycle.

This is Revolutionary Love — love that drives courageous and loving action in the world, even for those who disagree with us or hurt us.

I have seen a movement for Revolutionary Love emerge this Fall. Thousands of American gathered together in 100+ dialogues and film screenings across the nation on how to meet hate with love and courage this election season. Two hundred became Ambassadors of Revolutionary Love, committed to championing love in their lives — at schools and workplaces, online, at the kitchen table, and in the voting booth. And together, we took the message on the road through the Together Tour — a first-ever women’s speaking tour that reached 20,000+ people in packed theaters across America, championing the call to love this election season.

Now we are turning that love into action in the countdown to Election Day. Our Revolutionary Love Ambassadors are teaming with Emerge USA to stand with Muslim Americans and support their right to vote. With every new threat of voter intimidation at the polls, Muslim families worry that they may not be able to exercise the sacred and fundamental right to vote. We are making 10,000+ calls offering support and key polling information, a simple but substantial act that increases the likelihood that they will vote — and feel supported by their fellow Americans.

We have a choice this election season: Will we let the next generation inherit our fear and rage? Or will we recommit our nation to love? Thousands of Americans are choosing love.

And that gives me hope.


Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, activist, author, entrepreneur, Sikh thought leader, and movement-builder who uses stories to drive social change. Inspired by the Sikh faith, her new venture, the Revolutionary Love Project, harnesses the ethic of love to drive courageous action in American public life. Learn more about it here: