Sunday, August 23, 2015

Renewing Hope as the Hate Explodes

As you may have noticed by now, I took a break from the news over the last few days. I had to. The hate that is being unleashed by the candidacy of Donald Trump got to me. I found myself despairing for my country and needed some time to regroup. I have been reminded of how well Derrick Jensen captured what is happening.
From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement…

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, “normal,” chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.
As I watched that hate explode, I became aware of the fact that screaming back at it didn't cut it for me. And no, I don't think that it helps anyone, not even Bernie Sanders. Hatred has no redeeming quality, and to suggest otherwise is something I refuse to contemplate.

In order to reinvigorate my hope in this country, I went back to a source I have depended on for the last seven years...the man we elected twice to lead us. I wasn't that long ago that he reminded us of something we were taught by those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge fifty years ago:
The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities –- but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.

What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate.
If you are - like me - feeling the need to rejuvenate the possibility of love and hope, I invite you to do what I just this one again.

Don't let the haters get you down. Remember who we are!
We know America is what we make of it.

Look at our history. We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit. That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some. And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent. And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.” We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.


  1. I will have to save this post. Maybe next week it will encourage and comfort me. Today, I'm not sure what America is anymore.

    1. I spent a moment thinking about what our country looked like to young John Lewis 50 years ago. If he could believe there was reason to hope...surely I can.

    2. That thought, Nancy, IS comforting. One becomes so self absorbed in the present that one forgets. Thanks!

  2. I always think back to the struggles of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These two women fought for decades for women's rights and still died years before women got the right to vote. And yet their struggle was certainly not for nothing.

  3. Just because they're saying out loud now doesn't mean that level of hate is new. It's always been there. Being confronted with it now that it's out in the open actually gives me more hope. Now that they've gone from dog whistles that only they could hear to straight up hatred the rest of the country can hear, maybe now the rest of the country will start paying attention. The other thing that gives me hope is that people from other countries can hear it now, too. Now maybe they can point to our human rights abuses and say to us that we need to clean up our own house before we scold other people about their houses.

    1. Please notice that I never said the hate was new (i.e., Jensen quote right at the top).

      In terms of that hatred being out in the open - we already have one victim of a brutal beating blamed on it's unleashing by Trump. Sorry if I don't see anything good in that.

  4. "Noth­ing is more degen­er­ate than the kind of ethics or moral­ity that sur­vives in the shape of col­lec­tive ideas even after the World Spirit has ceased to inhabit them — to use the Hegelian expres­sion as a kind of short­hand. Once the state of human con­scious­ness and the state of social forces of pro­duc­tion have aban­doned these col­lec­tive ideas, these ideas acquire repres­sive and vio­lent qualities.

    Because the col­lec­tive ethos is no longer shared — indeed, pre­cisely because the col­lec­tive ethos which must now be herded by quo­ta­tion marks, is not com­monly shared — it can impose its claim to com­mon­al­ity only through vio­lent means. In this sense, the col­lec­tive ethos instru­men­tal­izes vio­lence to main­tain the appear­ance of its col­lec­tiv­ity. More­over, this ethos becomes vio­lence only once it has become an anachro­nism. What is strange his­tor­i­cally — and tem­po­rally — about this form of eth­i­cal vio­lence is that although the col­lec­tive ethos has become anachro­nis­tic, it has not become past; it insists itself into the present as an anachronism."

    ~ Adorno