My therapist seemed perturbed that I was not more upset about the Democrats’ dismal showing in North Carolina’s general election. I admitted I was initially pretty disgusted that, even with 75% voter turnout and district maps recently redrawn to their favor, we did not elect a Dem to the Senate or flip the General Assembly. Ultimately all our electoral votes would go to Trump. But as I told her, I’ve long grappled with how deeply racist this country and this state are. And seeing the Dems fail is no surprise to me, given that they push such lackluster candidates. I should know. I knocked hundreds of doors for one of them.
I shared these thoughts with her and she surmised, “Well you’ve described yourself as a pessimist. Maybe part of that is that you don’t have high expectations that lead to disappointment.”
Now it was my turn to feel perturbed. She got that analysis half-right. It’s true, I’m a big proponent of keeping one’s expectations in check (especially where the Democratic Party is concerned). But I’d never describe myself as a pessimist, because that is not who I am. Not by a long shot.
I suppose my harsh truth-telling leads some to believe I have a negative outlook on life. But when I say things like “we are maybe ten years out from irreversible climate apocalypse and most of that damage was done in the past thirty years” or “the Democratic party establishment doesn’t care if you’re dying from lack of health care and low wages because doing anything substantive about it would upset their donors” or “the police exist mainly to protect personal property and the wealthy, and they share many of the same values as white supremacist hate groups,” that’s not me having a downer point of view. That’s just me describing reality. If you wanna meet some true pessimists, come chat with my friends and comrades who believe there’s almost nothing we can do to stop any of this.
I’m not exactly sure we will stop any of these things, but I’m endlessly hopeful about our opportunities and our fight. I believe we can win a world where everyone is healthy, safe, housed, educated, and fed. But that faith also requires believing many more everyday people like me will wake up and realize no one is coming to save us. We need to save us. We can’t just sit back and hope that the politicians and the business leaders and the “good” police will all come together to lead us out of these very scary realities and into the promised land. They all answer to the super rich. It’s us against the super rich. So I would like everyone who’s waiting on our leaders to do the right thing to please understand you are living under false hope. And that will inevitably lead you to disappointment.
Our real hope is multiracial, working class solidarity. People power! See, I’m a very sunny hippie beneath all my dark soothsaying. This is why I call myself a Morbid Pollyanna. I tried explaining that concept to my shrink but I guess what she absorbed was “pessimist.” Perhaps that’s because I say things like “I see a lot of death on the horizon.” But for real, how does one not see a lot of death on the horizon?! We are in the dog days of a pandemic that’s already claimed almost a quarter million lives in this country alone. Again, I’m not imagining the worst. I’m shining light into darkness.
Fortunately, I see another kind of death that heightens my sense of hope — I see the death of complacency, indifference, and toxic individualism. I see the death of false hope in institutions that do not serve our communities. I see the death of capitalism. I see rebirth. I see communities of everyday people coming together in solidarity to claim collective power. I see many, many individuals assuming that power with a sense of responsibility to one another.
You don’t need to be afraid of the truth. But at some point you’re going to have to decide whether or not you want to be part of making a positive change. I think that choice is what really scares most people.