Maybe We Can

I know it’s not good to write about politics or religion. These topics are hugely divisive and problematic. It has always been this way. This current administration can be found in McCarthyism and the Civil War and any number of events between now and centuries ago. Each period in time has their own moments of fear and derision; this time isn’t any different.

This topic comes up because of a show I was just watching with Obama and his eventual nomination for the presidency at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. I was there for it. Obama received the nomination on my 30th birthday. Hope was imbued in Obama’s campaign and I can attest that it was real. That entire week…I can’t explain it. I felt like my chest would burst. To see that man, with his wife and children, accept the nomination the next day, everyone could feel there was a change.

When current affairs pull me down or make me question the sanity of this nation, I remember that week. It brings me some peace. As I was watching the show this evening, I cried. I cried for what we were. I cried for who we’ve become. I worry about where we are headed. There are some things we won’t be able to take back. A decade ago, we had “Yes we can.” Now, we have “No, you can’t.”

We’re turning everyone different from us into the other. Doing so gives us permission to stop seeing them as worthwhile humans. Have we forgotten empathy? Have we forgotten that we are stronger when we look out for everyone’s needs instead of looking out for only ourselves? I have never understood how someone can only worry about their own needs. I just don’t get it.

It’s easy to give up on people, to assume the worst in them, to turn them into the opposite of who you are. But, I think we’re roughly the same. We all want the same basic things. Health, loved ones, some security, a chance to have some downtime. Why would we want to remove this from one group of people?

When I get upset, I come back to Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. In it, he argues that we are living in the least violent era of human history. This has led to a more altruistic and cooperative society. It sure doesn’t feel like it, especially with the DACA debacle, the pushback against the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, bathroom bills, white supremacy becoming something we are casually talking about (there is now a Neo-Nazi running in Illinois’s Third District-how is this possible?).

What gives me hope though is that we are still on an upswing. If we take a look at longer time scales than our mortal lives, we can see that the graph moves ever upward. Sure, we’re going to have blips (I believe we’re living in one) but, in a hundred years, I think we’ll be in a better position. And, in a hundred after that, an even better one.

Our nation is still so very young. Our humanity is still very young. The universe has been around, what, ten to twenty billion years? And we’ve got 10100 years before we flame out. We are so, so young. We are still in our infancy. One of the questions on OkCupid asked, “If you could be immortal, would you want to be?” I immediately checked “Yes.” I want to see where we’re at in two hundred years, in two thousand years. Can you imagine?

So, when the rants and revulsions of this current administration makes its way to my ears, I think about how the world will be better for my nephew’s grandchildren. This may not be a great time right now but the eight years before were good. When we make decisions to raise everyone up, everyone wins. I’m looking forward to reading Pinker’s next book coming out at the end of this month. Enlightenment Now:The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress sounds like it’s going to be a phenomenal read. Bill Gates has raved about it.

I tend to take an optimistic view of life. I tend to believe in the goodness of people. I tend to believe that we as people are, on the whole, a good bunch.  As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. That’s something I want to be a part of. That is something I have no issue believing in.