Over the past few weeks, in preparation for last weekend’s My Little Pony Fair, I watched a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. It is, I discovered, a really good show. During that period, I also read a few extensive reports on rape at college campuses and the psychology of rapists, interviewed two rape victims/survivors, and saw on the news that a young white man had attended a prayer meeting in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and then shot and killed nine people he’d been praying with, including the pastor.

The Charleston news in particular was almost too evil to bear. I forced myself to read the reports because I knew it was important, but as soon as I could, I crawled into bed with my laptop to watch a few more episodes of Friendship Is Magic. It was extremely comforting. There’s no evil in Ponyville that can’t be forced away by the power of friendship.

Then last Friday, just in time for Pride, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was permitted under the Constitution and the whole country—or at least my neighborhood and my Facebook feed—erupted in rainbows. It felt like a holiday. At the My Little Pony Fair the next day, there were rainbows everywhere too, although nobody mentioned the Supreme Court or laws or anything like that. Such a ruling would have been completely unnecessary in Ponyville, where the spirit of love and acceptance reigns. (There are a few mean little ponies, but, as rarely happens among humans, they eventually get their comeuppance.)

Monday afternoon, after I’d been up all night writing my story and was in that state where you’re too tired to do anything besides sit and stare at a screen but not sleepy enough to go to bed, I went back to Friendship Is Magic, specifically the season three premiere, in which the Ponyville ponies take a trip to a neighboring pony country, the Crystal Empire, to rescue it from an evil unicorn named King Sombra. The Crystal Empire is inhabited by depressed ponies with faded colors who can’t remember anything from before the Sombra occupation.

It takes a lot of magic to lift an entire nation from a massive depression, but our heroic Ponyville ponies need only a single afternoon to find a solution: in an old history book, they discover that the not-evil pre-Sombra queen of the Crystal Empire used to hold an annual Crystal Faire, which raised every pony’s spirits and built up feelings of love and unity, which they somehow channeled into a big, magical crystal heart that would hold onto these feelings throughout the year. Whenever the empire was threatened, the crystal ponies drew on the heart to defend themselves. Sombra stole the heart and hid it away, but naturally the ponies recover it (of course they do!) and throw a Crystal Faire. Sombra is banished forever and light and color and hope are restored. Aha! I thought. My Little Pony is really a big crystal heart!

This still sounded sane to me after I’d gotten some sleep. As a metaphor, I mean. There’s so much evil in the world and so much bad news, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and forget that there’s goodness out there too. For me, Friendship Is Magic functions as a reminder of how things could be, and how, on the best days, they are: where people (and ponies) love and accept one another, even people who are different. (Hey, if Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia can be friends, there’s hope for the rest of us.)

The fact that men and boys embrace a show that features strong, independent female characters who spend a lot of time talking about friendship and feelings is heartening too. (I know that some of these boys are bullied and the men are ridiculed, but I love that they keep watching and arguing over the proper colors of unicorn magic.) Especially when you consider how much sexist bullshit Bonnie Zacherle, the creator of the original My Little Ponies, had to put up with from the suits at Hasbro as recently as 1982. Obviously, the friendship or fellowship the congregants at Emanuel AME Church showed Dylann Roof didn’t stop his hatred, but the ponies remind us not to give up, that the magic of friendship can still be a powerful force in the world.