Commercializing love obscures meaning

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

Tuesday is V-Day, a holiday like Christmas that started out as a religious observation but has been turned into a commercial campaign in which we’re told to buy our affection from others.

Know what I mean? Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Say “I love you” with roses, but keep in mind, nothing says I love you more than purchasing cell phone minutes for that special somebody.

That’s the message I’ve been hearing on the tube and on the ’net lately.

It looks like Cupid has been outsourced. Instead of this angel of love striking us with an arrow in the heart, advertisers are trying to pierce us in our pocketbooks.

Pope Benedict XVI recently published his first encyclical, a letter devoted to the real meaning of love and charity. In this open letter, Pope Benedict says the word love is abused, misused and taken lightly in our modern world, as in “I love my Toyota!”

When I was little and one of us would say something like, “I love chocolate ice cream,” there was always a smart aleck in the background to quip, “Then why don’t you marry it?” This was a blunt way of kids making each other think about what they were saying.

Nowadays, it’s us adults with our “I love my SUV” T-shirts and bumper stickers that could use some not-so-subtle reminders.

The pope is critical of the modern interpretations of “eros” or physical love, while also conceding it has always played a part in human existence. The pope writes that “With eros reduced to pure ‘sex,’ physical love has become a commodity to be bought and sold. Man himself has become a commodity.”

Yes, we’re commodities and we have TV shows to prove it: “Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire?” “The Dating Experiment,” “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” It doesn’t help either when runaway brides get attention, and million-dollar book deals, while people who’ve been married 50 years or more are looked upon as strange, rare creatures. This seem to give weight to the J. Geils Band song, “Love Stinks.”

This is sending the message to this generation that love is a competition, a game, a prison, a financial opportunity, a chance to get your 15 seconds of fame. And instead of spreading the idea of “Love thy neighbor” as a nation, our country is bombing our neighbors abroad and turning others away who are needy. In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it? It’s about love of our fellow man, a conditional love with a catch, as long as they think, talk and act like we do, and of course, it helps if they have oil.

Perhaps we as a country are looking for love in all the wrong places too, but what do you expect when we put a price tag on our affection. The Master Card commercial that says stuff like, “Cost of smiles on kids faces … priceless,” is all about getting you to spend money, money you don’t have for those smiles.

We parents are being told to buy our kids’ and mates’ affection and to expect something in return: Roses, gold bracelets, candlelight dinners, gourmet chocolate and expensive perfumes when, really, Valentine’s Day is about selflessness.

There are different accounts as to the history of Valentine’s Day, but the most common ones center around a St. Valentine who was martyred by an Emperor Claudius for being a Christian, a sacrifice considered an ultimate act of love.

How many of us or our children will live and die for what we believe? That’s real love. It can’t be marketed into a so-called reality TV show, mended for a fee by a so-called love doctor, or sold in a red box shaped like a heart. It comes from the real heart inside.

It really is priceless.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: