I’m watching President Obama give his State of the Union address, and I could care less. His plans sound good (well, most of them — I’m still against nuclear power) but for every sentence that he said, I could hear in my head people saying “it’ll never work” and/or “that’s stupid” and/or “it’s not our job to take care of others because it’s socialism” and/or “make the rich rich” and/or “he’s a crook” and/or some insane things that I can’t even imagine.
I believed, with Mr. Obama, that we actually wanted to do things differently when he got elected — that we actually wanted to take care of each other, that the majority of people wanted to put down their verbal weapons and do something together, that we might look like America — the best, most honorable nation on earth, leaders in doing good in the world — attracting people to our side not because we have more power, but because we have more decency and more people who participate in our freedom, our democracy because they believe they have value in each other’s eyes.
But it’s a year later, and he hasn’t failed us. We have failed us. I love writing this blog. I love sharing an opinion, and it’s quite possible I just can’t shut up. But it has taken everything I have to get off the mat. I make my opinions known, and I feel pulverized. I know that I have been mean-spirited at times, but I have apologized and acknowledged where I was factually wrong. And some of those who disagree with me have done so, as well. I particularly like my friend Marilyn’s “I know you don’t want to hear this…” response to one of my blogs that touched my heart with its decency.
For years, I’ve held the thought “What do you get when you kill an optimist? A dead optimist.” An optimist dies not when they’re in the ground, but when they stop being optimists and walk around like the living dead that the cynics want them to be.
If this is what people do to me, a guy with far less than a hundred people reading any one opinion of mine, what must it be like for a President who speaks to 300 million? What must it be like for the local politician who steps out and tries to bring their optimism, their energy, to their neighborhood? What must it be like for the editor of a paper that makes a real statement about anything? What must it be like for a kid who wants to challenge his teacher or parents or any authority figure? What must it be like for a girl when surrounded by people who tell her she can’t make choices for herself? What must it be like for a poor person who doesn’t even have a computer to raise their voice? What must it be like for anyone with ideals to express them in an environment like this?
I’m whining, sure. But I’m not a big deal, and I don’t suspect anyone will miss me as I step back for awhile and crawl into my hole to rest. But, as I wrote this, I remembered that there are other people whose lives depend on their getting their voices heard. And we need them to do so because human beings need to grow emotionally, spiritually, and into freedom.
Man, it’s tough out there and I just don’t have it anymore — at least for right now. Plus, there are other parts to life that call and I don’t want to skimp on. So what. I’ve got a life. I don’t have the energy to climb the mountain of 50 people’s public opinion. But, if this is what it’s like for me, there’s something wrong in America for anybody with a real passion to make the world a better place.
I’ll be back, no doubt, as the universe and time give me energy. I don’t want to be a dead optimist. Isn’t there a way we can stop make more?