HOPE

It is almost impossible, now, to describe what it felt to be incalculably hopeful. Our idealism, in the sixties and seventies, was boundless. We believed absolutely and completely that we would change the world. And in some ways the world was indeed changed. The civil rights act, the voting rights act, ultimately Title IX, the rise of feminism and a tectonic shift in our culture; music, art, attitudes.

And idealism dies hard. All my life I have held fast to some idealistic notions of good and right. Not to mention my steadfast belief in constitutional democracy and the protections it should afford us.

Having said that, the hardest thing for me about where we are now is the erosion of hope, the loss of idealism. I find it damn near impossible to watch the news without becoming angry, or depressed, or just plain sad. I find it almost impossible to believe that we are where we are. That racism, fascism, anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry are on the rise. That we cannot agree that saving the planet and all the creatures on it should be a first and urgent priority. That the short view is always the prevailing view. That civil discussion and disagreement are no longer possible. These are the big things, the small things confront us daily. My town now only pretends to recycle, my social security is taxed, there are hungry homeless children in our schools; and on and on.

I was watching a fictional television show in which a leading character made an impassioned speech about the values we should all be holding dear. About the pure and fantastical notion of a government by and for the people. And geek that I am, it made me cry. Good,grief. And it reminded me of that hope, that beautiful boundless hope.

And all I can do, as I witness the destruction of decades of progress on the environment, the recission of regulations that protect our air, our water, our parks, our children, the poor, the disenfranchised, is try to see the good. I watch for those moments when the best in us is evident, when my neighbors help me with things I can’t do, when people band together to help the victims of some senseless tragedy, when a restaurant feeds those with no money. Just examples, but sparks of hope. As I said, hope does hard, so we have to fan those tiny sparks and pray, every day, that the flames can rise again and carry us forward. Maybe hope is contagious.

Violence against Women

So I am driving down the road, minding my own business, thinking about the world. And a crappy little rusty shitbox car in front me sported a bumper sticker that said “Loud wives lose lives”. Now I know that there is still a lot of gender discrimination, and domestic violence and misogyny in the world but OMG, that is just right out there; about as far out there as anything I can imagine. I think there may be lots of men who think it but in today’s world, not so many that would overtly shout it from the rooftops. This particular car also had an iron cross and a confederate flag on the car. Now no offense to those who feel the confederate flag is a simple symbol of their birthright but to some of us these symbols seem to belong together, the ultimate symbols of facism and racism. I am the first to admit that I know nothing more about the driver or owner of that car but I feel that I know more than I would ever want to know, just by what he chose to advertise on his car; and yes I assume it was a “he”. So later that night I am watching the Tudors, one of my favorites, and there is a young man, a beautiful fresh-faced young man, besotted with the new, very young and beautiful queen. He is obsessed with her and watches her constantly, discretely following her from place to place. In a later scene he talks of her desirability and his frustration. The next thing we know he is violently raping a peasant or farm woman while his fellows hold her down. Part of what is shocking about this scene is exactly how fresh and innocent he appears up to this point. And then how ordinary it seems to him, how acceptable to take this course of action as a perfectly acceptable way of alleviating his frustration. Finally, when her husband comes seeking justice, saying he will take him to the sheriff, he kills him thoughtlessly, with no compunction. I am slightly unsure why these two unrelated events in my life became linked in my mind, but they are. The medieval callousness toward woman and the modern misogyny. In a way it seemed to me to illustrate what a short distance we have come; despite how far we have come. The feminists of my age fought for the right to be paid for equal work, to engage in “men’s” careers, to wear pants. The feminists of the generations before fought and lost their lives for the right to vote, to hold property in their own names. And the women of ages past fought just to survive the injustices in their lives. That bumper sticker made me mad, made me sad, made me want to shake the driver til his brains rattled. He probably lives with a mother who still cooks and cleans for him, does his laundry, irons his jeans. I wonder if he knows how his mother feels about that bumper sticker.