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Hoping Against Indifference

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Heretofore all too seldom, several authors have been read in recent weeks expressing sentiments of hope against and despite all that so many more authors have so richly and explicitly detailed as going wrong with our world.

I find such hope refreshing, for while anger at injustice is certainly justified, and when properly focused can spur one to action, anger without hope ineffectually leads only to more anger. And anger is never added to anger. It only multiplies.

I also find hope fascinating, most of all when it persists in the face of so much that would destroy it. And from every direction we face it certainly seems these days an awful lot of hope-busting missiles are zeroing in.

Hope, most of all, is the refusal of being indifferent. As author and founder of the Small Planet Institute Frances Moore Lappé once wrote so well, "Hope is not for wimps; it is for the strong-hearted who can recognize how bad things are and yet not be deterred, not be paralyzed."

Hope is active and not passive. It requires living one step ahead of reality, imagining things as different from as they are now, believing in spite of the odds. Hard work, to hope.

Hope is conceived from the union of imagination and indignation. It is the child of expectation and desire. And it gives life to the idea that every present is incomplete, and gives the lie to the belief that the way things are is the best and most natural outcome of all that has gone on before.

Dominant beliefs, held most strongly by those whose turn in power and those they lead, are typically at pains to suggest they are no more alterable by human hands than are the orbits of the earth. Hope is thus dismissed as naïveté, equated with ignorance of the "facts" and with denial of "reality". It is ridiculed as the drug of the powerless, and laughed off as the high of the truly hopeless.

But the past informs us that the dominant beliefs of one age themselves are often ridiculed in the next. History often proceeds by a process of reversal: momentum going in one direction is replaced by momentum in the opposite, each shift in momentum brought about by collective imagination and indignation. And while history provides us many lessons, one endures: successful change comes from hope, not from indifference.

Yet too many in this country today remain utterly indifferent to politics. Tyrannized by their overscheduled lives, distracted by money and possessions, celebrity and sport, or preoccupied with simply keeping their heads and those of their children above water, too many Americans live believing the state of the world does not concern them.

Others, more and more still, have likely been overwhelmed into their indifference by the very state of the world. Quite forgivable, given the events of the past six years. It is quite natural, after all, to vacillate between the determination to act, and the desire to retreat into the comforts of fun, family and friends.

But indifference is a nonetheless a conscious act, whether a temporary neglect or a permanent abandonment of hope. It requires one hanging up their ideals, putting away their enthusiasms, quieting their questioning spirit, and closing the lid on their indignations. It says of the present world, "It's not for me to understand." It says, "I cannot change the way things are," even as one's private concerns, one's happiness, and one's life course will every day be affected by the way things are.

As Americans we live in a democracy, and indifference is fatal to its survival. The powerful, they haven't stopped hoping: in fact, what they're hoping most for is our indifference.

When we don't participate, when might we do it? And if we don't do it at all, what are we saying? What have we decided?

To stay right where we are.

While sometimes naïve, others uninformed, hope is at least a noble journey, though that is not to say the right path is always taken. Who knows if there is even a "right" path? That is the beauty of democracy: when citizens actively participate, the question of who and what is "right" gets sorted out over time.

We have only to hope.

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Todd Huffman Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and writer living in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to many newspapers and publications throughout the Pacific Northwest.
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