By Ernie McCray
The last two months of this year have been a living hell for many people, including me, considering our social and political sins but I’m definitely not going to classify 2016 as the worst year of my life – as a lot of people seem to be doing.
I mean by nature I tend to give very little value to my crummy times and tons of bonus points to the moments wherein my soul is filled with hope. Where there’s hope there’s got to be a good year. And I’m pretty much hoping for this and that all the time.
All that to say that for most of the year I was riding high, living comfortably, grateful for having reached age 78, happy to be breathing above ground and privileged to enjoy luxuries like trodding on ancient grounds in cities like, to name a few, Madrid and Barcelona and Arles and Gay Paree… No bad year material in that experience.
And when it comes to hope, this journey, in spite of all the world’s troubles, made it clear to me, that there is, indeed “hope” for a better world as I walked among and intermingled with so many people of different colors and tongues and beliefs and allegiances, getting along peacefully.
I hope our lamenting isn’t about us losing hope because being able to hope is a gift to human beings, allowing us to entertain ways to make better days.
We might want to look at it this way: Instead of focusing on how bad the year was why not evaluate it more from a perspective of acknowledging how enriched our lives are just knowing that our loved ones are alive and well, that we have a job, a roof overhead, a car that rarely flashes the “Engine Warning” signs in the brightest of red. There could be nothing more hopeful than knowing that members of your DNA are doing okay.
I think we too often, especially in our “On your mark, get set, go” society, overlook what keeps us energized as human beings, the simple things, the precious moments that give rise to hope.
Like this year I was privileged to be alive to see friends who are aging, as I am, reach milestones, one turning 70, a bracket I’m in, another making it to 80, an age to which I aspire. Our hopes many years ago for long lives have been nicely realized.
As I look back on 2016 I’m almost caught off guard seeing how blessed I’ve been, how good things just came my way.
Like the Union-Trib called me up one day asking me to help with some ideas about “Education Matters,” an offer an old educator like me couldn’t refuse – mainly because I felt “relevant,” needed. It’s hard to live a hopeful life if you don’t feel that you count.
- And I played the “Relevant Card” all over the place:
- On a panel addressing “Race, Poverty, and Mass Incarceration” at USD…
- Being invited to talk to kids at several schools about Black History
- Breaking it down at City College that what the world needs now is empathy…
- Sharing ideas about aging at Mesa College and SDSU…
- Continuing to speak out against cops and military recruiters hanging out at our schools, jiving kids as they always do…
- Acting in plays and writing poems and essays and mentoring and working to counter the bullying of Muslim students in our schools and embracing Colin Kaepernick, a new hero of mine, and listening to Jazz in Balboa Park and going to Maria’s grandson’s soccer games and enjoying a week in New Orleans and hanging out with old Tucson High classmates at our 60th Reunion…
And, boom, we went to our voting places on Nov. 8, 2016, content in having voted our consciences, comfortable with the polls, and woke up the next day in a world unlike any we have known…
And it truly sucks. But the reality is we can’t let hope die because the last two months of the year was like a poke in the eye.
And if we’ve forgotten what hope looks like we need only go back a few months to last summer and look in on any one of the Bernie Sanders rallies and see sitting before him, in convention centers and stadiums and grand theaters, by the thousands, our children and grandchildren and great-grand-children who started becoming more socially and politically aware back when Occupy got underway.
Remember the ground shaking applause, the cheers, the sheer joy? Sounds of hope. The mantra of $27 dollars and some cents? Funders of hope. Talk of the status quo? The stumbling blocks of hope. The 1%? The enemy of hope. The millennials? The face of hope.
Bernie skipped the glamorous part and went straight to the young people’s hearts, telling it like it is with integrity and sincerity, hipping them to the fact, that a democracy serves no one well if its citizenry doesn’t make reasonable demands on it, always vigilant, ready to act and be heard, working from the bottom because there’s very little concern about you at the top. He taught them that making the changes our country needs is full-time work with very few breaks: survival of the fittest, if you will. And they were buying into the truths that glowed before them from a man who cared about them and was able to show it.
And he was dismissed by the media and the DNC as though he didn’t even exist, described as an unrealistic socialist with no real political skills, over the hill, a non-conformist, too radical.
And we opted to run with candidates who were very often spoken of in terms of “lesser of two evils” as hope cooled it for a while.
But we can’t toy with letting hope slip away like we did in the election. It’s time to forgive ourselves as we truly didn’t know what we were doing, and somehow recapture the hope that filled the air during the year when our kids were wide awake and ready to make great strides as human beings, as progressive thinking and acting American citizens.
How else can the world survive if we don’t, with every ounce of our social and political strength we can muster, help them keep hope alive?
This is our work for the rest of our lives.