The Audacity of Hope

Mother and child playing

I listened to/watched Barack Obama’s speech at the DNC this week. My god, that man – he is so great…I feel like I haven’t paid attention to just how great he is until it’s almost too late.

The thing that struck me most is that, in the face of so much adversity, he is still hopeful and positive. I needed to hear someone talking about hope. Mine has been dwindling lately, or rather I’ve been letting its light dim, its flame flailing wildly in the wind.

Generally speaking I am almost too hopeful, even when I don’t want to be, even during the hardest of times when it would probably be better to accept that the worst is happening, a sparkle of hope springs from nowhere and I think to myself, “yes but what if it works out.” It’s easier for me to deal with disappointment than constantly think the worst.

But lately I’ve been struggling. When I extend my gaze beyond the safe familiarity of my day to day life I find little cause for optimism. All I can see is a sort of indiscriminate darkness; political and economic chaos, countless acts of senseless and horrific violence, the existence of Donald Trump, the knowledge that we’re destroying our planet...

It’s oppressive, powerfully oppressive and it makes me feel weary, tired enough to give up and give in to the idea that human kind cannot, will not, better itself, that there aren’t enough good people to overcome greed, selfishness, bigotry and small mindedness. I gave up on hope, telling myself that the world is un-shapeable, that I would have to learn to accept things as they are. 

Then I watched Barack’s speech and it made me think. 

People across history have had to overcome challenges exactly like the ones we face and they’ve taken them on and won, triumphed in fact. But change will only come if I get up and make it happen. If I go out there and fight for it. 

Obama mentioned the ‘countless acts of quiet courage’ it has taken to achieve the previously unimaginable thing that is marriage equality. The challenges that face us...they're marriage equality squared infinity. We’re going to need many, many, many quiet acts of courage and probably some ball-breakingly huge ones too if we’re going to get through this horrible, uncertain period in our history and undo all the wrongs that have caused it. 

Last night, Eli and I sat looking out of the window observing the world on our doorstep. He pointed at the flowers and said, “look the wind is in them” waving his chubby arms in an enthusiastic demonstration. It was all suddenly very clear. The future doesn’t belong to me, it’s his and if I stop hoping for a better world then I've betrayed him in the most callous way. 

Obama is right, it's an audacious thing hope, it exists even when it has no right to. Renewing mine will be my first quiet act of courage.