Tomorrow, 1/20/09, will go down as one of the finer moments of America’s history. Never have I witnessed such excitement and hyperbole over an inauguration and, I must admit, it has been quite impressive stuff–from the star-studded performances on Lincoln Memorial to the glimmers of hope on the faces & conversations of many in spite of the avalanche of dismal economic news. This brings me to the reason I felt compelled to write this post: Hope.
I have hope, but in all honesty, I am not very optimistic about the future, at least not about short-term possibilities (most notably, the financial crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon and the question of Israel’s murderous abuse of power and total lack of concern for the humanity and dignity of the Palestinians).
What I admire about President Obama is his emphasis on hope and change. History is too complex and contingent on too many things to accurately make predictions about where we are heading. One thing that should be clear, nonetheless, is the necessity of keeping hope alive & constantly learning from mistakes & adapting to new conditions. As Obama emphasized, change is always possible, even in the face of great odds. Acting on that assumption creates the possibility of progress. Indeed, the love and sacrifice of so many known & unknown agitators for the cause of justice and equality, many who fought against unimaginable odds & lost their lives in the most horrific of ways, created the conditions which made the election of President Obama possible.
Witnessing the crowd of jubilant citizens on the National Mall grounds today, I was struck by their buoyant joy and collective hope for a better future. Black, white, brown–every stripe under the sun gathered and celebrated. The stirrings of radical hope pulsated throughout the day which manifested the better angels of our nature and our common need for being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
The great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, once said: “Our task simply put is to change some conditions that appear to me as obviously against the beauty of being human“. Our struggle continues (it’s naive to think that powerful interests both legitimate and illegitimate will simply disappear), but in the end, through our joy & sacrificial pain, we will arrive closer to the power & beauty of being human, beautifully human.