I grew up believing that our future was hopeful…that we were on the cusp of solving many of the problems our world faced. Elected officials might (and did!) disagree with each other on how to solve some of those problems, but they were willing to spend time in serious and honest discussion, trying to find ways to work together.
Now I’m not so sure.
- I see an increase in saber-rattling.
- I see distrust of science–and an almost fiendish delight in ignoring science to the point that we are in danger of destroying this planet that we live on.
- I see an unwillingness to even engage in any kind of serious discussion–by any of us. We don’t seem to be willing to try to listen to each other, much less find ways in which we can work together to solve the significant problems that face us.
- There is an increase in “I want mine and I don’t care what it does to anyone else or to the planet.”
- White supremacy is on the rise, with its determination that all other races are “less than” and should be destroyed.
- The rights of women to make decisions concerning their bodies and their health are being eroded by men who have no understanding of women’s health needs or how a woman’s body works.
- Children–our precious future–are not being given the education they need and deserve to create a future of hope.
- We denigrate and demean those who are members of faith traditions other than our own, unwilling to even try to understand their traditions while at the same time demanding that they conform to our own.
- Families are often being torn apart through policies that are gratuitously cruel.
- Members of minority groups (immigrants, LBGTQ+, people of color, disabled, single parents) are losing the protections that helped provide a positive future for them.
- While we talk about extremism in other faith traditions, we seem unwilling to recognize it in our own.
- We are destroying our environment. Multiple species are on the verge of extinction…and we don’t seem to care. CO2 levels are at an all-time high…and we laugh it off.
- We are afraid of our diversity.
Is there still hope for us?
I think so…and these two quotes give me hope.
First, from Howard Zinn, a historian and playwright:
To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
But perhaps more importantly, this one from Anne Frank:
In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
What’s our future? It’s up to us.