Optimism

By: Danielle Wilson

Tonight I voted, and it felt great. The last few years have felt painful, and I’ve struggled with the desire to help those impacted more than me– but not knowing what exactly to do. This felt like doing something.

It’s been easy to get worn down by the negativity in the news. The violence, the hate, the racism, the antisemitism, the misogynism, the despair. Didn’t we leave these things behind us? Weren’t we starting to progress? It feels in my own short lifetime that the world has regressed fifty or a hundred years. A way of life I’ve taken for granted now feels tenuous. The evil people who seemed to only be on the fringe of society are now all talking to each other on the internet and emboldening each other to come out of the woodwork and spew their vitriol, infecting everyone else with their misery.

The loudest voices get heard, and anger is contagious, so there’s been a lot of yelling on both sides, unfortunately. I often have to take a step back from the news and social media, take emotional breaks from the stream of information. But after a break, the bigger picture becomes clearer, and I can’t help being optimistic. We as an American people are fighting back. There are voices speaking out against the bigotry. There are smart people who are noticing the warning signs and are refusing to repeat the past. They do not stand by quietly watching while others are mocked, abused, or threatened; as others’ rights are taken away; as others’ identities or races or religions or genders are shunned and attacked. They are marching, in Washington or in their hometowns; they are writing articles; and most importantly, they are voting.  

There is a quote attributed to Mr. Rogers that floats around the internet when bad things happen: “‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” This is more true for me than ever. If I look for the helpers, the people speaking out for those who can’t, I feel better about humanity. Instead of getting pulled into the black hole of desperate and hateful voices, start listening to the empathetic ones and raise them up. Look for the ones who are trying to help their oppressed neighbors even when the problem doesn’t directly affect them or their families, even when their own interests may be at stake. I’d like to think people like this actually make up the majority. They just don’t tend to be yellers, so you may not have heard them over all the noise.

Maybe I’m just feeling optimistic because it’s election night and none of the results are in yet. By the time you read this, we’ll all know the outcome. But this revival of democracy, the fact that more people are voting in this election than have in years, is a glimmer of hope that the world is NOT full of hate. It’s actually full of love and hopefully, (even if slowly) we’re taking our world back.

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