A few words on hope

Cross-posted on The Obama Diary.


How's that hopey-changey thing workin' out for ya?
                  —Sarah Palin, half-term governor of Alaska, speaking about Barack Obama

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all.
                   —Emily Dickinson
My life would be impossible without hope.

For as long as I remember, I’ve stuttered. Most of my life has been spent in compensation for this malady, trying to pass it off as no big deal, as no impediment to achieving my goals in life. But the fact is that, despite supportive friends and family, the world does view you differently when you’re different. But, even greater, you view yourself as Other, as not quite the same as those around you, magnifying your flaws to the point where they become huge boulders standing in your path.

With an affliction such as mine, one can go one of two ways: towards desperation, or towards hope. I count myself lucky; again, because of supportive friends and family, I always kept hope foremost in my mind, that something would break my way.

To make a long story short, I eventually found a doctor whose therapy worked. Thanks to keeping faith in things getting better, I’m now a librarian, talking my head off, reading and singing to children in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do before my therapy.

I don’t tell this personal story to elicit commendation. I tell it to illustrate the centrality of hope in any decent human life.

Hope gives you a chance at a decent life. Hopelessness only leads to death.

When people deride us for placing hope in “That One”, what they’re really exposing is their own hopelessness.

Consider Sarah Palin’s quip; it’s easy to, as it was repeated in different versions across the right wing media wurlitzer. Their bromides exposed nothing about Barack Obama or the veracity of his world view; it merely exposed, in bright neon, the paucity of their own withered hearts. “Without vision (hope), the people perish.” The Right, and some elements of the Left, inhabit that country, where hope is a foreign concept, relegated long ago to the realm of fairy stories. Hope doesn’t obtain for them, because hope requires something anathema to them: belief, and work in that belief.

Oh, they have “belief”; they have enough “beliefs” to write mountains of books. But their beliefs bring nothing but despair; the Right’s world is crumbling before it, and it can’t understand why, after so many years of seeming dominance. And the extreme Left’s world was never born, and it too can’t understand why their beliefs were rejected.

On the Right and the extreme Left, their beliefs were rejected because they offered no real hope of things being better; their prescriptions merely served to enhance their own influence, without explaining how the Nirvanas they promised would come to fruition. They have belief without hope.

Hope isn’t blind faith, which those on the Right and Left offer. Hope is work, often hard, often unrecognized. I have more than one friend who is disappointed that Eden hasn’t broken out since November 2008. I ask, “Well, what have you done to make that vision reality?” They never have an answer. Obama offers hope, not a free ride. Anything worth achieving requires an effort which too many in our society eschew, clamoring instead for the easy promise, the get-rich-quick scheme. The work of achieving a decent life for all is beyond too many of our fellow citizens.

But without that hope that with work and perseverance things will get better, we may as well roll out the red carpet for the Koch Brothers. It’s that hope that maintains civilization. It’s that hope that makes us different from all the other creatures of the Earth. Without hope, the world dies.

My answer to Sarah Palin’s mocking question? “It’s working out quite fine, because I don’t live in despair.”


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