Cynicism is easy. You look out to the horizon and view an endless sea of injustices and it is easy to think you will never get across it. Sexism, racism, heterosexism, cis-sexim, economic abuse, war, diseases easily cured if not for greed, children starving despite there being plenty of food, and so much more that it seems the smart thing to do is to throw up your hands and say it just cannot be done. You can only swim so far, you can only tread water for so long.
If we do that though, if we give in, then there truly is no hope. Yes it may be years, decades, generations, and maybe even after we are long gone before things improve, but if we do not stop up now, they never will. In giving in to our cynicism we concede the fight and guarantee things will never get better. Our politicians have always been corrupt, yes, but they do not have to be, and if we step into that ring, if we are willing to get knocked around a bit, we can win better stewards of our democracy than what we are stuck with now.
I look all around and I see proof that I should just throw in the towel. I see a “liberal” President who appoints champions of industry to maintain the status quo. I see my fellow Americans willing to throw hungry children under the bus while giving a gluttonous military-industrial complex a pass. I see nearly half my countrymen still willing to deny their LGBT brothers and sisters their basic rights. I see politicians, both good and bad, still running after big money because that is what they have to do to win in our current system. There is so much to be pessimistic about.
Then I turn around and I see that light in the far off distance, my guiding star. I see people rejecting the Democrat/Republican paradigm in which a very narrow set of beliefs are represented, and in which one cannot engage in a la carte politics. I see our military leaders questioning the need for shinier toys that cost the tax payers tens, sometimes hundreds, of billions of dollars each. I see more than half my country men standing for their LGBT brothers and sisters, and willing to learn about just how varied and broad that rainbow is. I see people standing up and demanding the system that awards our democracy to he who has the most money be changed.
So many little victories that I cannot help but be optimistic. Good people are out there fighting the fight, and will continue to do so. They cannot, however, do it alone. We all need to step up. When they call you on the phone, when they knock on your door, or when they e-mail you, get involved. Be ready to join them in the streets. Mail your elected officials. Above all, remember that those officials are your employees, not your leaders. When you remind yourself of that, it is easy to remember that these fights can be won.
I will leave you with a stanza that I sign in copies of Drawing Lines, and which I occasionally sign off my e-mails and messages to fellow social justice warriors:
Never give up
never give in
the bastards win
There are bastards out there, but we have them outnumbered, and we need to remember it.
- On ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939); or, Love amidst a filibuster. (pbharat.wordpress.com)
- HRC Still Doesn’t Get It (But They Could) (bilerico.com)
- The Military Industrial Complex Stimulus Program is Undeterred (disinfo.com)
- Allegations of NYPD quotas in ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ trial (tv.msnbc.com)