“We must believe in the principle of hope — the assumption that life can be different than it is now.” — Henry Giroux, “Zombie Politics and Culture.”
Santa, what I want for Christmas is hope. I’ve made a list of some things that I would like to see happen in this country before too long — before everything falls apart completely:
• President Obama and friends, in spite of the recalcitrant Congress, will continue to get the Affordable Care Act up and running.
• Those tea party types wake up soon with at least a smidgen of empathy and compassion and an inclination to cooperate.
• The economy will improve so that the income of the average American will stop declining.
• The taxes of the wealthy are raised enough so that we don’t need to suffer more government shutdowns, more unemployment, less help for the needy, etc. As Patricia Gray wrote in her poignant letter to the editor on Dec. 12: “We need to care for each other and share the bounty of the Earth. What is our government, which claims to be a democracy, doing to share the wealth of this nation?”
• The Citizens’ United law is reversed so that corporate interests lose at least some of their political influence.
• College fees are brought back down to a point where most can afford it without going into interminable debt.
• Football is outlawed because of the number of serious concussions suffered by so many of the players.
• Those in charge of Wal-mart, Inc. will become less greedy and alter its business practices — including paying its employees living wages and discontinuing its practice of exploiting its suppliers.
• Our government leaders will grow up and learn to work together. It is reported that this is the least productive Congress ever, with the fewest laws passed.
• Our democracy will survive and eventually flourish in spite of the fact that at the present time our political, media and financial institutions, as described by Giroux, are “without a soul.”
I know I’m asking for a lot, Santa. You are very busy this time of year. But losing hope is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to any of us, because it makes us feel that we are losing control of our lives and depression can take hold. We wonder if it isn’t more conducive to our mental health to just not care any more — to try to protect our little corner of the world as best we can and live for whatever enjoyment and distraction today can bring and forget about the rest. We see so many people around us doing this, we wonder if we, who have been so concerned and caring up till now, should join what seems to be uninvolved majority.
Making our own choices, taking responsibility for our own actions and trying to fight injustice, irresponsibility and dishonesty seems so futile. But the belief that we are capable and competent to make some change is critical to our health and happiness. This is basic to self-confidence and self-respect. It is necessary to optimism, which is inextricably meshed with hope.
We have to feel some hope in order to survive. We have to enjoy considerable hope in order to be happy. Santa, I know you would tell me that it helps, when we’re on the verge of hopelessness, to try to do something to alleviate the problems that underlie our declining optimism. We need to do something this holiday season that sustains or renews hope in our lives and in the lives of others. We need to let this holiday season be a reminder of our ability to create joy, to give of ourselves, to come together in goodwill and to rekindle the warmth of love and the feeling that there may be hope for humankind after all. And though the days of winter may seem dark and dreary and events may be dismaying and depressing, we can light a candle, offer cheerful greetings and do whatever we can to improve life, especially for our loved ones and those in need.
Let’s hope that there are enough people in this country who have the empathy, compassion, sense of responsibility, honesty, decency and common sense to prevent our flailing democracy from sinking even deeper into the depths of the capitalistic abyss that is overwhelming and corrupting it.
And we need to keep in mind what Gordon Livingston, author of “We Get Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart,” wrote: “Like all values we teach our children — honesty, commitment, empathy, respect and hard work — the extreme importance of hope is taught by example.”
Thanks for listening, Santa! I feel better already!
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.