It’s been a scary and upsetting 24 hours for me. I have felt deeply wounded by mankind taking another potentially self destructive step. Hopelessness at ignorance and intolerance leading to history repeating itself, only with the potential for far worse consequences. Sadness at so many being blissfully unaware of their privilege while lauding things that they didn’t fully understand.
To all my friends in the US and elsewhere who were dreading this day, I’m sorry that things have gone in this awful direction. This is a time when the rest of the world shares at least a part of the anxiety and trepidation that you must be feeling about the forces of xenophobia, racism and worse that threaten the diversity of our planet. If you voted against this madness and did what you could to try and prevent this from happening, much love to you and I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you had hoped.
I’d just like you know that you’re not alone, and the sane world shares your fears and will be there for you at this scary and vulnerable time. I personally am there for you as a friend if you need someone to do nothing but listen.
I’ve spent most of the day feeling heartbroken and simply lost in thought; wallowing in these feelings in a manner that has been completely unproductive and unhelpful, not just to myself but to these issues that have affected me so. Eventually though, it was time to change that.
I’d like to think that the drive for making anything happen, starts with hope. A hope that anyone can make a difference and that no matter how dark it gets, it is merely an opportunity for our light to shine brighter. I’d like to believe in this quote from the Shawshank Redemption, that hope never dies.
These thoughts, as I clutched at straws about how I felt about hope, started me down a path I had been down before. I sought out the things that replenished my feeling of hope. In the past, the eclectic mix of things that fill me with hope range from Superman to to Wall-E to the sound of birds to petrichor and the pitter patter of rain that accompanies it. As I was thinking through my list, I was taken back to one that stood out as a regular feature among the things that renew my hope - the spectacular speech from the Great Dictator.
It may be 76 years old, but it is something I usually turn to every once in a while to seek inspiration and hope. In the past, it has never failed to instantly fill me with hope but sadly, there’s always a first time for everything to be different. My sadness and cynicism over the day’s events made this a struggle. A struggle to find the hope in these incredibly timeless words and to believe in their undeniable message of uniting for a better tomorrow. I suppose seeing gross intolerance, rooted in racial and gender supremacy, triumph over global pluralism can do that to people.
I tried to watch it once, but I could barely get started and kept getting stuck, particularly at this part:
“ I should like to help everyone — if possible — Jew, Gentile — black man — white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.”
My brain latched itself to the last line “but we have lost the way” and the part that follows when talking about greed poisoning men’s souls and barricading the world with hate. This has never felt more true to me than it did today and as I felt further despair, both at the day and my inability to derive hope from something I could always rely on, I forced myself to stop.
I felt myself get more detached and functioning almost like a zombie. However, that was until I noticed a friend’s name and that set me off on a chain of thought that led to another timeless bit of hope. One that I hadn’t gone back to in a while but was exactly what I needed today.
Two parts in this stand out to me and couldn’t be more apt even if Peter Jackson’s paraphrasing of different sections of Tolkein’s original masterpiece had been done for this occasion. This part:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.”
History has shown us that dark times have come before and they have been vanquished in time by the light and this quote really puts that well. The other bit would be this one:
“Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to Sam?”,
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
It is easy to despair in the current moment and forget about this last line, but that doesn’t make it less true. There is not just some, there is a LOT of good in this world that’s totally worth fighting, if we just took a moment to remember it in time. Armed with this wonderful thought, I decided to give Mr. Chaplin another go and this time, the message struck home.
This speech is just brilliant in the way that it acknowledges these times of despair and reminds us all that, no matter how grim these prospects might seem, there is still hope. A hope to move past the despair of the moment and look to see what’s next.
“ The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”
The bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress couldn’t ring more true today. The fragility of privilege of certain groups made them susceptible to manipulation by demagogues who claimed the minority is oppressing the ‘superior’ majority. This hate of men will pass and the dictators who fuel it will eventually die. I refuse to believe, that no matter how many are hateful, this hate will survive into the future of this world. To me this is one last stand that will crumble away as more embrace our truly globalized future.
He ends the speech with this rousing bit, that should be a mission statement for everyone for the foreseeable future.
“ Let us fight to free the world — to do away with national barriers — to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
The rise of the far right, while partly fueled by economic concerns, seems far too closely linked with the greed, hate and intolerance referenced here. These things are out in the open now, they aren’t just empty accusations, and it’s time to accept the reality that millions would actively support someone as repugnant and make him President.
(It’s also incredibly apt, given a certain campaign promise, that there’s a pointed line about doing away with national barriers.)
We have to fight to free the world from all this and that fight is a constant one against ignorance. This is ignorance about our secular, globalized world and ignorance of one’s own privilege which both seemingly lead to a lack of empathy that fuels bigotry, racism, misogyny, intolerance against LGBTQ and much more.
We have to unite and fight as one to show that
We are stronger than hate
We are proud of the diversity of the world & the intermingling of cultures
We will protect the planet for future generations
We will not give in to despair
We will put in the work to lead the world to a better future
I have the hope that as a species, we’re capable of all this. So let’s get started and as we do that I’d like to leave you with this from Trotsky. It is from over 100 years about but this is how I feel right now
It seems as if the new century, this gigantic newcomer, were bent at the very moment of its appearance to drive the optimist into absolute pessimism and civic nirvana.
– Death to Utopia! Death to faith! Death to love! Death to hope! thunders the twentieth century in salvos of fire and in the rumbling of guns.
– Surrender, you pathetic dreamer. Here I am, your long awaited twentieth century, your ‘future.’
– No, replies the unhumbled optimist: You, you are only the present.
PS. If you still need some hope and aren’t sure how the most intolerant will ever change, just take a look at this piece “the White Flight of Derek Black” — https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-white-flight-of-derek-black/2016/10/15/ed5f906a-8f3b-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html?tid=ss_tw-bottom. It made me more hopeful than I ever was before, that even the most extreme mindset can be turned around to sanity.
PPS. If you need some more reason to hope, especially those of you in the US or those affected by what the US does, here’s how the future voted