IS THERE ANY REASON FOR OPTIMISM?
My answer is “yes” but I am struggling to articulate why. I will give you my reasons, and I am sure on just about each one there is an opposing point of view. Nevertheless, in spite of all the trouble we are in, in these days of a pandemic, of economic threat and for us locally in the south, of tornadoes, there is reason for hope. Optimism is important because it is a crucial factor in moving toward solutions, and enduring the hardships of the present.
Legitimate optimism is not a denial of truth or fact, otherwise it would be more like being a sucker, a victim of con men, clueless or blind. One has to admit that not only do the circumstances seem terrifying, but we continue to be in a context of extreme political and ideological division. Almost any event, speech, or decision is dipped in partisan vitriol and so reason seems to leave the building – or at least our Facebook pages- when a partisan interpretation is put on things. This seems to keep us, collectively, from moving forward.
I don’t want the optimism of the hopeful buffalo who kept shouting to his fellow bison, “don’t mind the Indians, or the buffalo hunters, there are so many of us they will just take the slow, the old, the ill, and the stupid.” He kept snorting this until the buffalo were almost gone. Threats to extinction are real at certain times, whether from over-hunting, disease, war, climate change, whatever. Unless something happens to lessen the threat the herd will diminish. Human beings like to think of themselves as more than a herd. We tend to think that individuals are important, that families matter, as well the things that bind us together, whether it be religion, vocation, neighborhood, city, state or nation.
If we value life we grieve for each one taken, and not dismiss them as an insignificant statistic.
Some might not agree but I am dismayed that we are confronted with these challenges as an American nation while having terrible leadership at the top. If ever we needed great leadership it is now, and we simply don’t have it. No matter what ideological or policy decision you felt was the pivotal issue to decide for President Trump it pales in comparison with the national need at this moment. There is a splintering of leadership, where governors differ from the President, and mayors from governors. Great leadership would get everyone on the same page. The fault here is not with folks refusing to genuflect to our duly elected Commander and Chief, but with that same person in failing to inspire, in his inability to articulate a clear and compelling cause and strategy that brings us together, with an example of empathy and passion for our mutual protection.
This poor leadership will make our rising to the challenge more chaotic, more haphazard, less effective, and ultimately more deadly. It will take our current divisiveness and make it worse.
Yet this is an article on optimism, and not one to vent or cast blame. Yet the possibility of good leadership is one of the reasons for optimism. Here are my reasons:
- I believe there is a God and he answers prayer. People of faith always have a fountain of hope, even joy, that sustains them in hard times. We need faith like this to endure.
- I believe bad leadership eventually gets replaced with competent leadership, even if takes too long to get there. The results from the change can be dramatic and fast. Good and great leadership doesn’t mean great about everything, but usually it is tied to the current challenge. I think we have tremendous leaders with all kinds of expertise in this nation, it is time to give them the mantle held back from them by the hustling opportunists.
I believe in our constitutional form of government and our democratic process to bring about change.
- New leaders will emerge from this crisis with innovation and ideas to move us forward.
- I believe that we are a nation that rises to challenge. We have great science, and until science catches up with the disease, we have great doctors, nurses, and people in hospitals who care and work heroically hard to heal people.
- We are filled with neighborhoods and communities of caring people who give, and work to feed their neighbors. We are a wonderfully generous nation, from the poorest urban widow to wealthy philanthropists. We have great civic and non-profit entities that care for people.
- There are always cowards and selfish people, and crisis usually exposes them for what they are. It is good to have something to stop their posing.
- Though we be wealthy and affluent compared to many in the world our people are not adverse to sacrifice and not incapable of enduring suffering, especially if they are people of faith. We will not give up.
- We know how to work, and our economy ultimately is built on the people of this nation who will pick up after the funeral home, the bankrupt company, the lost customers and business, the devastated houses after the storm, and get back to it. We will rebuild our companies, our industries, our enterprises and we will make money again. With that money we will hire people, and grow. What choice do we have? We have to put food on the table and whatever help the government gives us in our bank account, ultimately that will be short lived. We will work.
Two Optional Possibilities:
- We will learn from this crisis, we will learn from our mistakes, we will learn from the science about pandemics, and we will be ready next time….maybe.
- We will reform our institutions, and even government, so that we will learn to value institutions, education, training, and expertise, and not seek to dismantle them by conspiracy theories and partisan games. We will value a spirit of cooperation between our own differing politics and with our allies for the good of all. We will value competent leadership which values what has been constitutionally built and seeks to enhance, improve, and sustain government and valuable institutions instead of throwing them under the bus for short term gain…maybe.
I am not optimistic, and in fact a bit cynical, in the historical ability of people to be stupid and to do what is in their own worst interest. So my optimism is a bit constrained and qualified.
Whatever happens, for myself personally, I will always have number 1 working for me. Whether I live to see great leadership or not, I have entrusted myself to Him (Jesus Christ) who is able to keep all that I have committed to him against the eternal reckoning.