Looking for Feathers

 

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I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

 

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Howard Zinn

 

That was all a man needed: hope. It was lack of hope that discouraged a man.

— Charles Bukowski

 

It’s real easy for someone with depression, like myself, who tends to view the world through a rather dark lens to begin with, to abandon all hope in the future when looking at the state of things in the present.

The news is constantly discouraging, courtesy and manners have all but vanished from society, and kindness, compassion and morals are well on their way to doing the same thing.

I keep looking for reasons to hope, to believe in a brighter day on the horizon but, lately, despair takes up more head and heart space.

I guess it’s partly because, the older I get, the less faith I have in people. I’ve seen more cases of them giving in to their baser instincts, not their better natures. And the difference is in who they serve: themselves, or others.

Also, giving up hope is just easier; I don’t have to do anything. Hope takes work. If you’re gonna hope, you’ve got to care. And if you’re gonna care, you have to actively engage.

And that’s where the old blood, sweat and tears come in. Nelson Mandela spoke of “one’s feet moving forward,”; Howard Zinn talked about “the energy to act.” They knew what I still need to learn: hope isn’t a state of thinking or feeling.

It’s a state of doing. If I don’t feel hope, I just have to make some. People through the whole course of history have done so, when facing the most impossible circumstances. I owe it to them to do the same.

So, wish me luck. I need, and want, to find hope soon. And, I have a suspicion, a lot of us do.

 

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

The Road From Here

 

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I have thought long and hard about what to say regarding the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

Let me begin with a sports analogy:

Many sports fans, I’ve noticed, are willing to overlook a certain player’s behavior for the sake of a few more wins for their team. I mean, so what if he beats women, or gets caught driving drunk, or is charged with possession, etc., as long as he performs when it’s game time.

Sounds a lot like what happened in this election.

 

I didn’t watch the results on Election Day as they happened; I went to bed that night having no idea whatsoever who our next President was. First thing the next morning, I got out of bed to see who won.

My wife would tell me later, she was a little surprised by how calmly I delivered the news to her. I replied, I wasn’t really calm, so much as I was numb.

In fact, I was in a state of utter shock. I could not believe or process what had occurred. How the hell could this happen? I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. Most of the morning, I was a zombie, just going through the motions of my job, but feeling dead on the inside.

Eventually, I experienced feelings of devastation, depression, worry, revulsion, white-hot anger, embarrassment, shame, betrayal, confusion and about every other negative feeling you can name.

I wanted to lash out at all the Trump voters, leaving no doubt about exactly what I thought of them. I wanted them to know what a monumental mistake they made. I felt like calling them some creative names, along with some of the old favorites.

But I didn’t see that serving any useful purpose. Pretty sure those folks give not one solitary damn what I think of them. And all the yelling and screaming I did would not change the fact that Donald Trump is our President. Yours and mine. That’s the reality, much as a lot of us hate it. (And a lot of us – all over the world, I noticed – do hate it.)

By the way, just so you know, electing a businessman to lead your country is like hiring a pastry chef to overhaul your transmission. There’s a certain skill set to each job that does not translate to the other. Politics, like it or not, is better left to politicians. Would you honestly be comfortable putting someone in the cockpit of your aircraft who’s never flown before in his life?

That’s exactly what the Trump voters just did. Unfortunately, we’re all on the plane with them.

 

So, what happens next?

One of the few good things to emerge from this messy, embarrassing, completely forgettable election year, is the spirit of revolution, especially among the younger Americans, who were so inspired by the campaign of Bernie Sanders. (I was, too.) They see the need for change, and are ready, willing and able to work toward making change happen.

We need to encourage them. We need to join them.

Women, blacks, Latin Americans, Muslims, the LGBT+ community, and the middle class all have bullseyes on their backs, now. It’s on us all to stand up for their rights, their dignity, and their safety.

Donald Trump and his Republican Congressional cronies dismiss global warming as a myth, a hoax. We need to stand up for the protection of our planet from those who refuse to see the evidence staring them in the face of its accelerating decline.

These and other issues (Supreme Court appointments, health care, Middle East conflicts) will require our vigilance, our intelligence, and our toughness.

For the next four years.

Yes, we have to accept who our President will be, but we do not have to accept his agenda. We can rise up in organized, disciplined, informed, peaceful opposition, and let our singular voice be heard. Not an angry mob, but a determined, unified coalition of like-minded individuals.

I’m a middle-aged white guy with a blog. I will use those advantages to their fullest potential. This is way too important for me to do anything less.

I hope you will join me.

 

Interesting thing happened Wednesday, The Day After.

I was driving my shuttle van, as always, and the skies were cloudy, gray and gloomy. Much like a large part of America, after what had just occurred.

Late that afternoon, the sun began to break through the clouds.

Corny? Cliche? Yeah, sure, but I was taking my inspiration where I could find it that day.

Clouds only hide the light for so long. But, it always wins.

That’s a mighty good thing to remember.