I’ve never been a doom and gloom type. Never. I know things can get pretty bleak and very complicated—I see that. And still. Still. I’ve always held onto hope.
Hope (according to dictionary.com) is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”
That definition doesn’t seem to capture the magnificence of the word. It feels too … Pollyannish. I don’t find much value in sitting back and saying “things will turn out for the best.” (I’ve never much liked “things happen for a reason,” either. Who came up with that one!)
Hope is not refusing to look at the facts as they are. It is not wishing on a star, or the stuff of dreams—although the seeds of hope may spring from stars and dreams.
Hope is also not for the lazy. You can’t just throw your pennies into the fountain and think your work is done.
Finally, hope is not for the faint-hearted. Holding hope is an act of courage—a daring enterprise. In these times, I can’t help but hope women—and men—will rise up and be brave. Turn their thoughts, feelings, and fears into action that will turn some of the disturbing current tides.
Little By Little. One Boundary Crossed. Then Another
I’m talking about the Supreme Court. About Roe v Wade. About women and their bodies and their right to choose.
I’m talking about the ways some people are working to limit voting opportunities for people whom they fear will pull a different lever in the voting booth. Fewer polling places. Laws against providing food and water to people waiting on long lines at the polls. Gerrymandering.
I’m talking about hate—the scariest word in the English language. Hate has always terrified me and now, it seems to have permeated the very air we breathe.
I’m talking about the banning of books, the cancelling of people—on the left. On the right. I’m talking about peoples. Whole groups of them. Races. Religions. Ethnicities. Genders.
Hope Is Not For The Faint Of Heart
Rights and opportunities don’t get ripped out from under you—not suddenly, not at first. They are taken little by little. One boundary crossed. Then another. Until you no longer recognize where you are. Ask any woman who’s been in an abusive relationship. Any person who has lived under autocratic rule. You feel the ground erode beneath you until there is no place left to stand.
Hold up! I’m sounding pretty doom and gloom right now. And I said I never get all doomy and gloomy. But I also said hope is not for the faint of heart.
When I am feeling this angst, this discomfort—this terror—I turn to the words of Rebecca Solnit in Hope in the Dark. Words that feel true to me:
“To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear … I say all this because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency … hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope. …The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.”
Those Who Worked To Take Rights Away Will Feel Emboldened and Entitled To Take Even More
I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I fear what will happen to women, especially poor women, women of color, women who live in states (about half of our states) that will ban or severely limit abortion once the Supreme Court rules.
But my fear goes deeper than this singular issue. When the right to choose is taken, what will come next? When this right, decided in January 1973, is no more, those who worked to take it away will feel emboldened and entitled to take even more.
Maybe others of us can be emboldened by hope—not any pie-in-the-sky notions but true hope, the fuel of the brave.
The Broader World
I think of our country, yes, but the broader world too. A world where just last month in France an election was held for president, where Marine Le Pen, the far-right hate monger won 41.5% of the vote. She lost to Emmanuel Macron for the second time. That’s good news. But … in 2017, the last time they faced each other in a presidential election, she had 33.9% of the vote. Her popularity has grown. And she is not stopping. Though she conceded defeat, according to The New York Times, “she vowed to fight on to secure a large number of representatives in legislative elections in June, declaring that ‘French people have this evening shown their desire for a strong counter power to Emmanuel Macron.’”
Little by little. Boundaries crossed.
I think of Ukraine. I can’t stop thinking about Ukraine. And the emboldened Putin. A devastating, deadly mix.
Many of you know that I just finished writing a novel. It is funny, mostly (at least, it makes me laugh out loud), but there is a deep sadness underlying the story—a layer of intergenerational trauma. My protagonist’s mom was a Holocaust survivor and, while that is a small part of the written text, the mom’s experiences color the way she looks at and lives in the world—and the way she raised her only child.
Genocide Did Not Disappear When The Nazi’s Took Off Their Uniforms
Memories of the Holocaust lived and breathed in many Jewish homes of my generation, as they did in mine. I suspect every culture has its own trauma that it holds close. I recently read about Holocaust survivors in Ukraine who fled the current war in Ukraine and went to Germany—the very place they fled so many years before. Is this not a story of hope?
Do people learn? Many do. I fear the ones who don’t.
April 28 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. I am saddened that we are losing our witnesses. The few left are well into their eighties or older. Who will be left to speak, to remember, to warn others it can happen again, here, there, anywhere?
Genocide did not disappear when the Nazi’s took off their uniforms. There have been acts of genocide since. I’m afraid more of those uniforms—and others like them—are making their way out of storage.
What lies in the world’s future? Will further boundaries be crossed? No one knows for sure. But we cannot sit back and “hope” for the best.
“Hope,” Solnit says, “is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”
What Can We Do?
How can we hold hope in one hand, while fear weighs down the other?
By taking a deep breath—or ten. By calling upon our courage and looking beyond the hate that seems to show itself so brazenly wherever we turn.
There is hope. Women—and men—are protesting all over the country. Don’t underestimate the power of taking your voice to the street! If you have two minutes today, please read Jay Caspian Kang’s article “Protests Might Not Change the Court’s Decision. We Should Take to the Streets Anyway.” It’s a brilliant piece–and an example of brave hope.
In the face of the upcoming Supreme Court decision, states like Connecticut, California, Illinois, New York are working on legislation that would “protect their providers and others in the state who help patients from out of state getting abortions there.”
We must have hope. And act. Call our Congresspeople, our Senators. Governors. Mayors. Write letters and emails to them too. Let them know we’re watching—and listening—for their response. Write OpEds. March. Protest. Join with others in our communities, our houses of worship, parent associations. Vote. Take a stand wherever and whenever we can. You can. I can.
Will we? I have hope that we will.
Some resources if you’d like to donate:
The Cut has put together two lists of funds collecting money to help keep abortion legal and accessible for those making that choice. One list is for donation sites in hostile states (states with lawmakers who will likely try to prohibit abortion). The other in places where abortion will not be protected (states in which abortion will remain without legal protection).
Forbes has put together a helpful list of places accepting donations for Ukraine.
EveryLibrary, “a non-partisan, pro-library organization with an alignment toward sustaining libraries as they evolve and grow in the 21st century,” is actively fighting the banning of books and has suggestions of how you can help.
How do you hold onto hope when things feel particularly bleak?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Write a comment or send me an email.
See you soon!
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