I’ve had a steady stream of friends, from all walks of life, who’ve recently told me that my enthusiasm for a potentially, maybe, perhaps, fingers crossed, better outcome in the 2020 election is nice, but seriously flawed. What they fail to notice is that I’m not making any predictions. I’m just happy during the moments when a tiny bit of justice gets served, or when a good man or woman seems to have a moment’s kick up in the polls.
But maybe it’s totally ridiculous to have hope. Maybe it’s too much work. Maybe American democracy is on the down slope to the end. That’s what many of my friends want me to accept. But I say that’s completely stupid. Because, maybe this is just a bad lull. I mean, we did have a Civil War, people. That thing tore our country in half–two terrible sides, almost one million people dead. Lots of amputations, blown up railroads, starving people, and the like. In fact, all of the people telling me it’s impossible for them to have hope had ancestors in that war, and most of them fought against mine, and yet, here we are a living breathing connected country. Here we are living as friends on the same side, looking towards hope. Didn’t Obama urge us in this direction a few years ago? Didn’t we all jump and say, “Hope? Yes! Give me some of that!” Do we all think he meant, “Just hope in me right now, but when I leave, jump off the nearest bridge, because I’m your Messiah and there ain’t nothing else for you, babe”? Is that what he meant? For hope to be always connected to something outside ourselves? I don’t think he meant that, because he’s not an idiot. He seems to be a pretty nice guy with good ideas. (I’m not talking to the Obama haters, and my comments are monitored, so you’re not getting in. Go harass a scientist, or someone else you consider a threat).
Yes, I realize we’re politically divided, that this could actually result in another civil war type situation if things don’t improve. However, I was born an American, I was raised an American, and I think like an American. I have an original FDR pennant in my bedroom at The Ugly Old Farmhouse. I bought it while Obama was still president, because I figured something else was coming and I needed the reminder that good guys do come along every now and then in America. You see, I knew that presidents only serve two terms in this country and probably an opposite of Obama was on its way. So, I prepped for some optimism, the American brand. I’m proud of that thing that my immigrant students cling to and my wealthy foreign friends laugh at. Even if so many of my friends and family really wish I’d let that stuff go to straight to hell, I’m holding onto it–for me. Last week, several different friends–in person and online–told me, “I have no hope, so you can hope for me.”
No. Do it yourself.
You know what I don’t like? People who can’t take responsibility for their own existential crises. I won’t take on that nonsensical burden of trying to spark hope inside your heart. I’m not God. I’m not a fairy. I’m not Merlin. I live in the same world all my friends do. I live in America, just as they do. I hate the current political situation in which we live, just like they do. I want new change. I want the fascists out, too. But I also have a life–a busy one–of teaching, writing, mothering, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, managing an autoimmune disease, etc…I live here too, on this same planet, in this same country, and I carry a lot of burdens already. It’s not like I’m delusional, or particularly gifted, because I choose to have hope that things will–one day–whatever day that is–get better. Maybe it won’t be in this election, but whenever Bernie (or any of the Democrats) soar above expectations (even if they come back down again later), I’m going to take that height and ride it for the few moments it exists. I’m not going to shoot it down and wish it dead before it even gets wings. That’s my nature, to take what I can and, if it’s good (even for a moment), celebrate it. I had a difficult childhood, and I’ve almost died a couple of times. This is how I face death and ugliness, by rejoicing in the moments, not the future that doesn’t yet exist. If things continue to get better, I’m even going to go as far as to say it was the hope of many who breathed hot air into that good balloon during the moments when they felt joy.
I’m sorry if some of you can’t do that. I sincerely am sorry for you. And I’m not talking to people who’ve recently lost a loved one or who are battling cancer or who are going through a trauma. I understand your burden, and I respect it. I’m talking to people who have reason to hope and still refuse to do the work of it. Hope is not cotton candy. It’s not easy. It’s work. It’s an endeavor, a practice, a movement forward when you really want to just fall down and sleep forever.
For those who refuse to hope, when they have reason to, your nature is different than mine, and I get that. I don’t judge you for not hoping. I just refuse to hope for you. I hope for me, and maybe, if you don’t know how to hope I can teach you, but I can’t create your hope. That’s your job. It’s not my responsibility, or anyone else’s, to make you choose hope. That is your burden, and that is your exercise in strength and sticktoitivness. If you don’t have that kind of grit, you don’t have it. I hope you get it, because this is nothing if we’ve got worse coming, and if you have already given up when the road is still paved, it’s gonna hurt a whole lot more if we’re on the down slope for good. You won’t have any frame of reference for what is good if you’re always choosing to see only what is bad. I feel like this lesson was taught to all of us in kindergarten. Was it not? Even in Catholic school, the nuns taught us hope is a verb, not just a noun. It’s an exercise, not just the white fluff on Lemon Meringue Pie. I have had lengthy conversations with more than one Holocaust survivor in my life and they both told me that hope is what saved them, nothing else, and even if they died hoping, they died fixating their mental energy on something good and not something bad. I consider them experts in hoping, and so, I take their lead. The Jewish half of me absorbed that lesson years ago, to hope when nothing else is there. It’s what saves us. I couple that with the gentile half of me: Faith, hope, love. One builds the other.
Friends, we either make a practice of hope or we’re doomed for sure, no matter what else happens. In the words of Loretta Castorini (Cher) in Moonstruck, “SNAP OUT OF IT!” you doomers. If I’m wrong, and America becomes a big cesspool of Nazis, I’ll still cling to hope, just in another country, and I’ll still quote Obama and pray for Hope and Change. Fingers crossed, things will get better and good people will choose light over darkness.