The Recency of Hate, The Primacy of Hope: Teach America To Be Its Dream.
I have been pretty down recently as I watch the unfolding of a nightmarish devolution of the American Republic. My older brother and I have discussed this. We have discussed how we have spent a a significant portion of our lives buoyed by hope and expectations that America would grow into its dream. That hope that America and Americans, to use Lincoln’s beautiful phrase, would be touched again by its better angels. But not merely touched but actually taught.
We talked about how a large portion of our lives we have watched a crisis of hope and the taking of those who might teach us not utopia but basic decency. What is it in this Nation that revels in racial conflict and economic predation?
How do we as leaders of the free world end up careening as haunted victors feeling that no past triumph makes us secure long enough to first be peacemakers in the world? Why must we operate ”a winner taunts all” economy instead of a winner helps loser economy? When did hate. become a family value?
No. I am not talking about politics, although I could. I am talking about the recency of hate. I am talking about decency and ordinary concern for our fellow citizens and neighbors. I am talking about avoiding cruelty and greed in personal lives and public policy and law. And, like I have written before, I am talking about mutuality in living.
My late mother was an amateur genealogist before the era of the Internet and Ancestry.com existed. She would have loved that stuff had she lived to see it. But for her, it was pen and paper and a conversation or two. about who our relatives were.
She would have been thrilled to learn that my father’s family tree is now identified as far back as. 1635 in this country. Not as slaves, but free blacks. Or that one ancestor with an old biblical name is identified as having been with Washington to watch Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. Or that another won a lawsuit when after the passing of the old slaveholder, her son refused to emancipate him according to the dead woman’s last will and testament.
For my mother, these facts would be empowering more than the Internet or some other technological gimmicks like a Bluetooth. For my mother, facts like these would prove values that seem almost invisible in today’s world and in America. The values are endurance and persistence in the face of adversity and tempered by hope.
A place like America requires endurance and perseverance. We here have no royalty or nobility; neither do we claim a class system like Great Britain or other nations where the definition of who you are and who you might become was preordained by your parents’ place in life.
The destiny of America and of each American is supposed to be what we make of it; it is the destiny determined by the opportunity of the day and of the day to come after that.
Indeed, we tend to crave equality because we know this should be and can be true. If our destiny is truly the opportunity we face. daily, then what we owe to one another is not exclusion or self-serving competition, but more opportunity and the possibility of enduring and persisting in all of our accomplishments.
But, we cannot do this by defining ourselves against ourselves. We do not make ourselves stronger by diminishing our neighbors. We cannot learn this by deciding against hope or opportunity. We only grow from the acknowledgement of hope.
The illusion that pride in this Nation’s family tree is derived from depriving our fellow Americans and new American immigrants full membership in this family is not only false but self-defeating. Or that the denial of basic decency is somehow triumphant. It is, instead, a recurring part of the bad dream that every hero in recent American life has tried to awaken us from. But it is the thing which my late mother understood we each had to endure. And, it is still the thing we must persist in defeating.
It is not someone else we must defeat in this Nation. It is the recency of hate that is our enemy. It is something that has followed us every time we see in this county a few glimmers of hope. It is, I think, nevertheless going to lose. We still have time to reach our goals. We still can teach America to be its dream.
Albert Turner Goins