By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com
Hope or fear? Which do we choose?
More than any recent decade Americans are strongly divided between two themes: Hope for a better tomorrow or fear of repeating an ominous history.
Both hope and fear are presiding doctrines that come with peril. The human condition has never been problem free.
Which narrative prevails? Why do both exist?
Our country is founded on hope. Hope for religious freedom, hope for greater opportunity. Hope for a new tomorrow that, while fraught with peril, so greatly exceeds a prior condition it is worth any risk. Even risk of life.
Read the lore of our founding fathers, this is their doctrine: risk for the hope of a better tomorrow. Some starved, some were killed in wars. Some lived to see the birth of a nation so vast that in only two short centuries has lead the world to countless new things. Our country passed ancient ones fraught with conflict, suffering and oppression for thousands of years, and we did it in less than 200 years. In nearly every case, when a person is downtrodden and wants to leave their homeland for the Promised Land, the United States is their first choice. Because hope is our legacy, our doctrine, our national narrative. Not fear.
The advancement of mankind and of our country has accelerated at a dizzying rate during the last centuries. At first our national throttle was at idle for a few decades, moved into “drive” for a few more, slammed into “reverse” around 1867, nearly ran out of gas in 1929, plowed forward through terrible storms at a grinding speed until 1945 then drove down the on-ramp of a new freeway in the 1950’s and accelerated to a speed that went supersonic.
Like any momentous journey through time there have been tragedies and triumphs; wars, depressions, recessions, scandals and controversies. But these have only punctuated a national narrative of momentous success and dizzying progress.
What is the next chapter in this great national novel, the Story of America? Is it that we circle the wagons, build walls and shut out a world that accelerates at a pace approaching and in some countries exceeding our own national velocity? Or, do we espouse a risky and promising doctrine of world community? inclusion rather than exclusion, new ideas and new challenges rather than a serialized, romanticized yesterday often embellished by historical lore and suspiciously untarnished by the historical reality that any time our national tempo toward “better” has diminished, calamity has followed.
I still choose hope.
This comes from a man who has had everything, has lost everything, and grinds inexorably back toward that great American Dream; not just material wealth, but precious things that enrich our lives like free ideas, a sense of community, the guarantee of inclusion and the promise of growth so vast I cannot envision it. And mostly that ephemeral and fleeting feeling of safety.
These things are possible. We have had them. And while we have suffered tragedies the trajectory and acceleration of our national destiny tracks more favorably when propelled by the thrust of hope than the drag of fear.
So, I still choose hope.