Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Twin Companions: Cynicism and Hope


Honestly I did not think I would be posting on this topic today. Fate however intervened. The other day I expressed on a private list how I felt a bit cynical about the chances of people rising up and taking back this country from the politicians who respond to those with money rather than those with citizenship. Soon after several people mentioned the need to take action. Of course I agree. But as I thought about it more deeply, I came to realize that within me resides both hope and cynicism each perfectly valid feelings. I needed to explain what that meant to me and how I respond to these opposing feelings. What follows is my response to that private group. Several responded positively to it, so it seemed appropriate to post it as a blog entry also. Without further ado, here's what I posted:

I should allow that while I have my moments (days, weeks, years) steeped in cynicism on certain matters, I have come to understand that cynicism must be tempered with hope. Fortunately I've lived in an age when hope has trumped the cynic right there in front of my own eyes. For example, I look to African Americans early on in the Civil Rights struggle. Growing up in the Jim Crow south, the early efforts to change the status quo seemed terribly difficult if not impossible. As people were beaten,killed, set on by dogs, the only thing keeping them going was hope. I marveled at the strength of their hope, and it became mine as well. Either yesterday or the day before, the bombing anniversary that killed 4 children in that southern church in Birmingham marked I think the shift of public opinion in that day of struggle even among the complacent in the south and around the country. Hope despite the pragmatism of despair trumped, at terrible cost, and change came.

Growing up, there was a colloquialism I heard often among local African Americans. It was a simple thing really. If someone asked for help, or someone was going to help another, the word help was replaced by the word hope. "I'll hope you do that." "Can I hope you?" Such a simple thing and yet even then I recognized the power in what they were doing.

For that matter, who back in the late sixties thought even for a moment that within our lifetimes we'd be having an open debate on whether we could get married and the President of the United States would be on our side? Hope was triumphant beyond our dreams.

So yeah, there are matters I'm cynical about right now. Like Americans standing up to change the current status quo. Still alongside the cynic resides hope. So I talk to people, march in marches, and ALWAYS vote my values. No one can predict that magical moment when despair and cynicism gives way to hope's realization. But I want to be there and be a part of it when it does. In the meantime we need to hope each other as we await the day of victory. May it come soon.

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