The challenge of finding hope in dark times

Published: 07/17/2022 14:03:12

Modified: 07/17/2022 14:00:18

I get a lot of emails that start or end with something like, “Hope you’re doing as well as expected in these difficult times. I admit to doing the same.

In the past, such language was reserved for someone dealing with their own illness or that of a family member, or even death. Today’s challenge refers to life in a country where Supreme Court originals have invented reasons to justify denying women sovereignty over their bodies, while limiting states’ rights to save lives through common sense gun control, and making the Environmental Protection Agency climate impotent. change.

From city school boards to Congress, elected officials are attempting a white nationalist takeover. A tsunami of state legislation has decimated the rights of trans children. The teaching of black history was deemed unpatriotic. Gay marriage and birth control are on the chopping block.

As the January 6 hearings reveal a macabre effort to steal a presidential election, state lawmakers are stealing the franchise from millions of black, brown, and Native American people. For those who believe in striving to fulfill the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every American, finding hope in these dark days is a challenge.

The belief that our democracy is on the verge of collapse has created crippling despair for many Americans. My friends and my family said to me: “I feel bad, but I’m an ostrich. “I have been protesting for half a decade. I’m tired.” “I’m done.” “The Democratic Party is useless.”

Desperation generated a sense of helplessness that led to passivity, an understandable but dangerous response when our country’s sole is at stake.

Social justice activist Nancy Amidei, in her book “So You Want to Make a Difference”, a manual for teaching ordinary people simple tools of social advocacy, stresses that “democracy is not a spectator sport” . Democracy only works when every American is actively involved in advocating for a government that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Prayers and hope alone will not save our democracy. Being obsessed with MSNBC will not defeat fascism.

I have spent the last two weeks cycling in the Berkshires. Blowing and puffing Brodie Mountain is exhausting, but it’s also exhilarating to reach the top. At age 72, “use it or lose it” motivated me to get out of bed and get on my bike.

Like our bodies, democracy is a muscle that atrophies when not used. When was the last time you wrote or phoned your legislators to ask them to support an important bill? Do you belong to an organization fighting for gun control? For the right to reproductive freedom?

Have you recently written a letter to the editor of this newspaper to take a stand for justice? Did you participate in a demonstration? Do you implore others to get involved to save our democracy? When was the last time you wrote a check for any amount to support a political candidate?

Have you ever written postcards to people in red and purple states encouraging them to register to vote? When did you take a stand against racism? Homophobia? Anti-Semitism? Xenophobia? Did you encourage a cynic to vote? What have you done to keep the muscle of democracy strong?

Our beautiful Valley is rich in opportunities for action. I’ve heard so many people admonish, “I’m not the activist type. Joining a group to write postcards, meet with a legislator, or register voters helps alleviate the isolation and helplessness that lead to despair and inaction. The following local organizations will welcome you with open arms:

■ The Friday Action Group, launched locally in 2016 by Northampton activist Paul Spector, now includes hundreds of members nationwide who are “engaging in small actions with big impact”. Their weekly Zoom meetings feature “good news and good results” and “welcome anyone who needs a connection with kindred spirits”. (

■ Swing Left Western Mass and Indivisible Northampton merged to “educate and mobilize voters”… “to elect Democrats to office in key states and districts across the country.” (

■The League of Women Voters works “to ensure that all citizens are actively engaged in making democracy work. (

■413 Staying Connected lists many opportunities for action. (

I’m not suggesting that everyone quit their jobs, cancel their vacations and become full-time activists, but imagine the energy that could be unleashed if each of us committed just one hour a week to, in the words of Rep. Jamie Raskin, “Strengthening Our Democracy Against Coups and Political Violence.

My husband likes to sing while pedaling his recumbent electric trike. Yesterday the Joni Mitchell song he sang struck an uneasy chord as we pedaled down a gravel hill: ‘Doesn’t it always seem like you don’t know what you’ve got up? ‘until he’s gone….”

“Democracy is on the ballot in November.” (Tom Weiner) Will you commit to an hour a week to keep it alive?

Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is Emeritus Professor of Social Work and writes a monthly column. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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