A major tenet of a democracy, among other guiding principles and norms, is HOPE.
This dynamic element, although intangible, is a fierce force that has been part and parcel of American democracy’s history – from 1776 to this day. The language in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, rule of law, inalienable rights and social justice is fueled by HOPE.
The contemporary “pied piper of HOPE” is President Barack Obama.
As as sidebar, I must admit that it is a genuine pleasure each time I say or think of his name. There is an authenticity, intelligence, moral clarity and relentless hope each time his name – his persona is reflected upon. He invigorates me as a citizen and human being.
How I miss – how America misses his wisdom, nurturing and mentorship. President Obama is someone who a parent or teacher, regardless of ideology and party, can point to as a role model without reservation and with dignity. Always urging, pushing us to be the best versions of citizenship and not just for ourselves.
President Obama shared that he wrote his second book, The Audacity of Hope, at night after his wife and two daughters were asleep. The title of the book was inspired by a sermon his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, gave at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. President Obama reflected, “I was really struck by that phrase, because I think that one of the things that characterizes this country in particular is the sense that we can overcome…the sense that no matter how difficult our circumstances, we have the boldness to say, ‘We can do better.”
Hope – its audacity – the human spirit that is ever present – aspiring, yearning, longing, searching to enhance the quality of life, not for a few, but for all – “E pluribus unum” – that “out of many one” – the hope that a committee of diverse immigrants dared audaciously to construct on July 4, 1776.
Hope always has been present throughout American history. Hope was, and continues to be, the light that guides immigrants to America for a better life. For some, hope was not an option but a requirement in order to survive each day against needless victimization and subjugation.
Hope was behind the tireless perseverance, persistence, determination and sacrifices by every human being who was subjected to inhumane oppression and multigenerational trauma. Only hope could sustain surviving nightmarish times, spaces and horrific circumstances . . . hope to survive one more day.
It was hope held by women, the native, the slave, the immigrant revealed through their counterstories of resilience. The hope of enhancing the quality of life in a land that professed opportunities of worth – not just subjugated labor.
Hope’s journey toward citizenship was the pathway to empowerment – providing freedoms and rights, even to those who disagreed.
The core, the ethos of hope does not have borders, flags and anthems. It is intrinsically inherited with the first breath of life by every child. But hope must be nurtured and mentored. We are not born hating, stereotyping, fearing one another.
Imagine standing on the outside glass of a hospital’s nursery, with all newborns wrapped in their first blanket . . . a few seconds after having gasped their first breath outside of their mother’s womb. Now ask how many of these innocent children will be taught to love each other . . . ask how many will be taught to hate each other . . .
The predispositions of hate, biases, social-cultural -isms and phobias are planted, taught and learned.
Hope does not exclude but includes. Hope does not shun any child, but welcomes each child to this earth without asking anything in return.
This is a crucial element often not mentioned between an Autocracy and a Democracy. That is, hope’s magnanimous unyielding benevolence. Taking joy in the joy of others – working on behalf of others – empowering. This is the noble, ethical, moral and human value of a Democracy versus an Autocracy – reaching out beyond self.
Aside from hope, a democracy is founded on reality and the pursuit of the truth. It can’t function on behalf of all its constituencies if it is not based on reality, truth and justice embedded in the rule of law. The reality and truth must be clear in order to be just.
Unlike wearing the chains of self-oppression, hope is a form of emancipation from delusional racial grandeur, superiority or supremacy. There is no bravado with hope. It is humble and humbling as it empowers rather than oppresses.
Immigrants and each morphing affinity group has been America’s ongoing litmus test as to authenticating Democracy’s inalienable rights and the rule of law. That tension continues to live as part of America’s struggle to free itself from self-imposed fear, distrust and hate for difference and otherness.
Hope is an optimistic state of mind based on the belief of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. Hope is based on expectations, trying to deal with realistic challenges such as global warming, domestic/foreign terrorism, global economic disparities, immigration across global borders and the threats and attacks by autocrats and despots on Democracy.
Hope is a belief that social-cultural problems, regardless of complexities have solutions. The challenge is to solve the problems together, for each other’s welfare, and make the necessary arduous concessions on behalf of those who are voiceless, powerless and continue to suffer needless consequences.
At the same time, hope requires a sober awareness of the historical forces working against it; trying to diminish or kill it. Domestic/Foreign Terrorism, White Supremacy, Racism, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Homophobia, Misogyny, Republican Trumpism are but some of the social-cultural-political constructs building walls against, not only hope, but Democracy.
The forces of hate, division, supremacy and extremism will always fail because HATE self-consumes – void of a life source and force. Hate is born is a cesspool of extremism, fear, -isms and phobias – all psychological flaws.
Antithetically, hope gives birth, morphs, transcends, evolves, perseveres and persists. Even during the darkest of times, within the catacombs of desperation and terror, a glimmer of hope is present in order to endure.
“We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be,
as our children deserve it to be.”
Address by President Barack Obama to the United Nations General Assembly – 2014.