Like a spoiled brat at a birthday party, I didn’t get the slice of cake I wanted so I feel like going off into a corner to sulk. Instead of focusing on the things that have gone right, I am grumpy because so much has gone wrong. You would think that with my 76th birthday just a couple of weeks away, I would know better. When will I ever learn?
I am not whining about my personal life. Some things have gone wrong, of course, but I’m luckier than most. I’m still ambulatory and still fairly lucid, and I am blessed with a loving wife and family, loyal friends and a resilient faith.
But I let myself hope for too much from the Obama revolution.
When Sarah Palin (photo at right) taunts me with , “How’s that hope-y change-y stuff workin’ out for ya?” I have no adequate response. I am in danger of running out of hope for America – and the world. The change I expected has not materialized.
Author Paul Loeb summed up my feelings Saturday in Truthout:
When America elected Barack Obama, cynicism seemed in retreat, beaten back by a wave of ordinary people staking their time, money, and spirit on the prospect of significant change. We seemed to have reached a major historical turning point, offering the chance finally to address our country’s root crises. Now, cynicism and despair have bounced back on steroids, as if to mock any new hope that we can help create a better world. Last year’s soaring expectations seem distant memories, leaving a bitter taste. Obama’s campaign made grassroots participation central, and he’s invited us to help him do the right thing in office. But his compromises and the failings of Senate leaders to overcome the resistance of their obstructionist colleagues have destroyed much of the grassroots enthusiasm that existed a year ago. Meanwhile, those of us whose passionate engagement helped elect Obama haven’t stepped up to help define our national debates (while the Teabaggers have)….
What happens when we decide that our politics is so corrupt, bought and paid for, that all talk of ever changing it is naïve? “Everybody lies,” says a veteran newspaperman quoted in the Utne Reader, “but it doesn’t matter, because nobody listens.”
However, Loeb refuses to succumb to the prevailing mood of despair. He cautions that if progressives seek the comfort of cynical resignation, we will assure our defeat. He writes:
As an alternative to this impotent “realism,” I’d like to propose a clear-eyed idealism, which recognizes that these are bad times but refuses to accept that the bad times are inevitable. … It’s important to dissect institutional arrogance and greed, to assess how it damages lives, neighborhoods, communities, and the most basic life systems of the earth. It’s critical to hold powerful institutions and individuals accountable, including political leaders like Obama who we may have worked for, voted for, and may still support in many ways. But too many social activists almost delight in rolling around in the bad news, like dogs in rancid fish. If that’s all we do, we’ll foster mostly resignation and despair. So along with the bad news, we need to convey that which is capable of inspiring hope.
I want to believe that Loeb (photo at left) is right and the cynics are wrong. He has impressive credentials, after all. His “Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Challenging Time” has become a classic guide for progressives, with more than 100,000 copies in print.
But then a cold wind blows a chill in my bones when I remember that Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”
has sold more than 2.2 million copies, and she’s planning a sequel.
It’s hard to keep believing in that hope-y, change-y stuff in such a wacky world. But we have to keep the faith. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate.