I‘m an optimist. I resist the “half-empty” glass. I look for the best in others. At times, I suffer the consequences, but seeing the good helps me to feel better and remain upbeat even in times of crisis. As a manager of people, I’ve found that it’s far more effective to encourage their sparks of creativity and goodness, intelligence and decency that to be overly critical and negative.
I’m well aware, of course, that everyone errs, uses bad judgment, succumbs to ego, appears foolish, behaves destructively, and gives license to their darker angels. But I stay hopeful anyway as a necessary hedge against despair.
That being said I’ve had an excruciatingly difficult time as has half the country’s voting population (that is, half + 2 million and still counting!!!!!!!) since the election. I worry and am still mourning the multi-cultural, inclusive, diverse, and visionary politics of the Obama era.
Of course, the President has not been perfect. He made his share of mistakes. But I love what he tried to do for the nation and world. I’ve been inspired by his effort to promote a forward-looking, progressive, and smart agenda that emphasized the best in the human condition. I love his elegance, rhetoric, humor, thinking, judgment, and policy emphasis. I loved his effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to a two-state solution. I respect his diplomatic success in disarming Iran of its nuclear weapons and capability without ever firing a shot. I’m encouraged by his success internationally in bringing about the Paris climate accord. I loved that he did as no President before him was able to do, get passed the Affordable Care Act, and I looked forward to Hillary and a democratic Senate improving upon it. I respect his dignity under constant assault by racists who just could not countenance a black man in the Oval Office. I love Hillary’s toughness and faith-based politics despite so much misogyny that undermined her campaign. (Note: I know that many people opposed Obama and Clinton for legitimate reasons other than racism and misogyny)
The two of them gave me hope that the battle to build a more just and compassionate society was on the right track.
I’m beginning to find my bearings again, thankfully, since November 8. Jon Stewart was right in an interview after the election when he remarked that this country is no different today than it was before the election. The same people – good, bad and ugly – make up the patches of the American quilt just as they did before.
We who are/were demoralized, therefore, are not starting from zero. Much has been done already to improve America and much has still to be done. I hope against hope that Trump will surprise everyone, but I’m not putting money on it. I hope as well that members of his own party stand against him and others when they propose policies that are destructive.
Instead, I believe that its time for everyone to become more engaged in social justice advocacy work than we ever have been before in order to prevent a deterioration in our democracy and our compassionate society.
We have to align with just causes and just organizations, with local, state and federal officials who share our vision and democratic pluralist values.
We Jews have to act as Jews and be ready to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the shrinking middle class, and to stand united against efforts to eviscerate the social safety net.
We have to push hard on behalf of the welfare of the 42 million food insecure Americans who have no idea when or from where their next meal will come.
We have to support women’s rights to equal pay for equal work, and their right to choose, as well as the equal marriage rights of the LGBTQ community.
We have to stand up for the environment, for science, for technological advance, for higher education for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, for critical thinking, and for fact-based truth.
We have to protect immigrants, peoples of color, and strangers, and to challenge those who claim that any human being is “illegal.”
The pendulum swings both ways and we can’t forget the ancient words of the Biblical prophet that called for justice, compassion and humility before God.
We have to remember Dr. King’s words that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
That is the message of hope. The optimist in me dies hard. I hope that it dies hard in you too!