Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holding Out Hope

On Election Day 2008, the majority of citizens of the United States of America rejected fear and selfishness as guiding principles. If we’re lucky, sanity will return to the leadership of our country in a few short months, and our chances of surviving and thriving will take a decided turn upward.

President-elect Barack Obama used his acceptance speech to set realistic expectations for the near future. Our problems will not miraculously be solved. Mistakes will likely be made but then corrected. Cooperation and hard work are required to build a better future. The process is the key to success: working and learning and caring about others.

Is it too much to hope that we will no longer be subject to collective delusion? That we will not blindly follow someone because we are in a crisis? That we will work together, instead of seeing each other as competition to be squashed like the contestants of reality shows and the management of large corporations? That all it takes is education and the right set of leaders to offset the worst of human nature?

While canvassing during the last days of the campaign, I was struck by the ways people have chosen to isolate themselves from an encroaching world. Dogs and signs on gates warned off visitors. “Security” lights made sure that anyone who made it to the door could be identified and dealt with appropriately (often by pretending not to be home). When I did get to talk to people, about a third of them were kind or thankful, half of them were barely polite, and a sixth of them were downright hostile.

I know from my own experience and study that decreasing isolation is a key to establishing a stronger sense of community, which itself is critical to our surviving and thriving both individually and as a species. As a former community organizer, our soon-to-be president apparently knows the same thing. By getting to know each other well enough not to fear each other, and incorporating more effective ways of doing this into our culture, we may together find a way toward a better future. Based on the results of the election, I’m inclined to hold out hope for this.

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