Hope Starts Here: On Love and Legislation
If you’ve had your head stuck in the sand lately (and perhaps voluntarily), you may have missed a lot of recent happenings in the news. It almost seems as if the world is imploding every single day. People are getting fired, legislation is/is not passing, Russia is involved, everyone is mad at everyone. It’s a hot mess out there, people.
Whenever I accidentally scroll through a news channel full of talking heads (usually trying to find a basketball game or reruns of Seinfeld), I always ask myself the same question: so what?
If you’re like me, you may think the government feels detached from your personal life. I have a hard time getting invested in the decisions they make because I rarely see how they affect me. And yes, I know I’m wrong. What they do is important (my eyes can’t help but roll as I type this), yet it doesn’t feel that way. For me, the government feels far away.
BUT, like any well-intentioned citizen, I do my best to ignore these negative sentiments and I try to care about what’s going on in the government. I read the news every morning (and by the news, I mean The Skimm). I follow both CNN and Fox News on Twitter (look at my open-mindedness!) to avoid getting stuck in my own echochamber. And I try to read a variety of articles and Twitter moments to stay up-to-date because I know the distance between my daily decisions and the decisions being made in Washington, D.C. aren’t as far apart as I think they are.
And you want to know the result of such efforts? Discouragement. Frustration. Anger. And sometimes on a good day, mild annoyance. I read tweet after tweet and post after post and article after article full of problems barren of solutions. As I read, I feel helpless. Where is the hope? As I look on both sides of the aisle, I can’t find much to cheer for. But maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.
Call me optimistic, but I think there is hope for America—a hope that is not in the government but in the people that government serves.
Black, white, gay, straight, native citizen, immigrant, city slicker, rural folk. Yeah, these people. The gap between these groups and their ideals seems to grow constantly wider, but love born from empathy that can bridge that gap. Maybe this is crazy, but what if we took it on ourselves to individually heal the wounds of our nations by addressing the wounds of our neighborhoods? What if instead of pointing our fingers at politicians we despise, we held our hands out to people who need our love?
There is hope in individuals. Contrary to what you may hear/read/see in the news, we haven’t forgotten how to treat each other with kindness. We haven’t forgotten how to empathize. We haven’t forgotten how to love. The news is virtually void of kindness, empathy, and love, but those characteristics are still in us. The potential for those virtues to pervade the American people is still present.
"But Democrats think _____." "But Republicans think _____." "But she's _____." "But he's _____." Fill in the blank with whatever you hate most...then choose to love the person behind the belief. Can we do that? If we can do that, hope will abound.
But if our collective response to the above question is a resounding no, then you and I may be a much bigger problem for America than anyone on Capitol Hill. Because if America is a nation full of people who can't learn to love each other, then legislation is the least of our concerns.
Here’s the thing: hope doesn’t originate in The White House. Hope starts in my house and in your house. It's up to us, not the President or Congress, to decide what defines the character of our nation. So, what if instead of letting politicians upset us we let each other uplift us?
What if instead of going on Twitter rants about ten things we hate about the government, we shared encouraging, uplifting, or maybe even interesting stories? I recently read an article about Charles Dickens and social commentary which said, “Where Dickens wielded a pen, today we wield a smartphone.” What if we filled our news feeds with less things that made us furrow our brows and more things that made us smile? The crazy thing about the world we live in is that we can spread hope with the touch of a few buttons.
And that’s just social media. This mindset can play out in the way we hold and have conversations with people who disagree with us. Instead of trying to shove our point down someone’s throat, we could listen and learn from someone else’s perspective. Instead of complaining with our friends about all the terrible things that we see, we can figure out how to go fix them.
I’m a cynic and I still think there is hope in our nation—not because of a particular set of American ideals but because of a particular type of American people. Hope starts when we stop looking at others to supply it for us and start looking to ourselves to give it to others. Hope starts here.