by J J Cohen
My New Year's wish for all of my friends returns me to an inauguration held here in Washington eight years ago. What a different world, like sudden clearing after long years of war. My son and I attended the event together. We sat for a long time on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, eager for the less bellicose, less divided nation that we thought was finally to come. MLK had given a resounding speech from those very steps in 1963, his dream had taken too long to arrive, the road traveled marked with violence and protest ... but in 2008 the advent of a better future finally seemed close.
Of course the last eight years have been no utopia. We can all list what went wrong, what choices and policies and appointments were made that we wish had not been, what opportunities squandered. But I want to return for a moment to 1963, or 2008, or any moment in US or world history when it didn't seem that the time ahead was dire and that maybe we could be a nation or even a global community that accepted, tolerated, intensified, cared, enabled, affirmed -- and not unkind countries full of walls, roiling hatred, and vociferous negation. I don't want to lose the past's unfulfilled possibilities.
The years ahead will not be easy. Yet I believe a feeling that held so many of us in 2008 has become even more important now. Yes, I understand that hope has sometimes been used to trick people into making them accept a constricted present for the promise of a better future that never arrives. But hope does not have to be a deferral of the now for something to come. The present we make is in fact the future itself. Hope is a toolbox and a shelter, a reason for activism, a catalyst for protest. Hope is immediate. Hope can be a "no" and a "now." Hope takes and demands work.
Post 11/9 has been agonizing to me for many reasons, but a slow burn of anger has prevented despair. And now I recognize, something else as well. So let's build refuges together. Let's make new shelters even in the face of hate. Let's challenge those who would have us despair. Let's watch out for those in danger and say no to those in power.
Let's not lose hope.