Why We Can’t Let Hope Die In These Difficult Times

I don’t know if there has ever been a point in history where the world-wide news couldn’t be described as … depressing.

That isn’t to say that the world is a terrible and awful place. But terrible and awful things do happen in it all the damn time, and lately, I’ve personally found myself more deeply affected by it than usual.

And trust me, I’m usually affected by it. Outrage and desire for change are not unknown emotions for me. But, lately, a new emotion has been creeping up: hopelessness.

I have a few reasons for feeling this way. But as I don’t have all day to list them all, I’m only going to focus on one: the most recent shooting to occur in the United States.

It’s frustrating. It was frustrating from the moment I first heard about it on the news, because the way I see it, there are many countries that have proven one surefire way to avoid mass shootings by enforcing stricter gun laws, and yet the States simply refuses to do it. And because of that, people are still being murdered. Children are still being murdered. And I don’t understand. I don’t understand why the States seems to be engaging in this war on its own people. I don’t understand why the right to bear arms matters more than the right to live. I don’t understand, and I’m beginning to lose hope that this change will come about in the near future.

You might disagree with my view on this matter, but I’m not necessarily asking for you to agree with me. I’m only trying to explain where this hopelessness comes from.

And the reason why I am using this example to explain my hopelessness is because I recently watched a video posted to Facebook that featured a woman talking about this tragedy. In the beginning of the video, the woman echoes my own hopeless feelings, making such statements as, “Congress will do nothing to change this bloody course.” Yet, as the video continues, the sentiment begins to take a turn toward the optimistic, ending with such statements as, “Congress will not change, so we must change Congress.”

My initial reaction to this video was something akin to: “well, I agree with the first part, but the last part isn’t going to happen”.

How long has this been going on for? How many men, women, and children have already lost their lives, and received nothing but thoughts and prayers in return? We have gotten so accustomed to this endless cycle, of hearing about shootings, getting upset, demanding action, and then forgetting about it when action doesn’t come. Will we ever actually do anything different?

But the more that I thought about this video (and trust me, it stuck with me), the more that I realized that there was no other way that it could end but on a note of hope. And I don’t simply mean that in the sense that the video couldn’t gain traction on social media if it wasn’t hopeful: I mean it wouldn’t have served any purpose if it wasn’t hopeful.

If it ended where my recent thoughts have been ending, on this idea that change will never happen, then it would become a self-fulfilling prophesy: change would never happen. Nobody would be fighting. Because people don’t fight for things that they don’t imagine will ever happen. And if people aren’t fighting, then change will never happen. There will be no reason for it to happen.

Change won’t happen. People will continue to be murdered. It’s the same thing, every day, and we let it continue.

No, if there is any possibility of change in this world, it comes only from hope.

If you tell people that there’s a chance, then you open their minds to the possibility that you might be right. You make them see the possibilities. You make them want to fight to make it happen.

And maybe the steps we take are small, but they are still steps. Maybe the world isn’t made right in one day. Maybe there are still causalities along the way, and maybe that is a terrible tragedy. But an even worse tragedy would be to allow it to keep happen, to give the message to the world that this is alright. We accept this.

Because I don’t accept this. I can’t live with this. And from what I’ve seen of my community, I’m not alone in this thought process.

And it is very easy to lose hope in times like this. It’s very easy when you’re throwing yourself into the issue, full-force, motivated for the change and frustrated that you’re not seeing it. It’s very easy when you’re distanced from the issue, and you simply don’t understand why this is happening. It’s easy, but it’s also dangerous.

We need hope. Hope motivates action, and action motivates change. It just motivates change slowly. At a glacial speed, at times. But the small victories are still victories, and if nothing else is accomplished, keeping the fight going is at least a victory. Whenever you allow the fight to die, that is when the goal dies as well.

So whenever you are starting to feel hopeless, remember this: you are not alone in this. Even when it feels like you are surrounded by people who don’t understand, who aren’t listening, there are always going to be people in there who do understand. People who are afraid to speak up. People who need to find the courage to say something. And if you keep talking, if you keep fighting, you will eventually find these people. And together, you will be heard. You will create change.

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In Defence of Superman

I’ve been noticing this pattern lately, not necessarily in the hardcore DC fandom but in the much less committed pop culture, of people who seem to brush aside the character of Superman. I’ve heard people say that he can’t be interesting anymore because he’s too powerful. I’ve heard people say that he’s, plain and simple, a terrible character. And I’ve heard time and time again that Batman is the far superior superhero.

And while I’ll agree that Superman hasn’t exactly been represented well in the recent media (I’m looking at you, Snyder), I can’t help but wonder about this mutual dismissal of what was once an extremely popular character.

Personally speaking, I still like Superman. I think Superman needs to exist. In the entire spectrum of the DC universe, I think Superman fills a void that other heroes (like Batman) don’t.

And the thing that I like about him is not his incredible power – there are many superheroes that possess god-like abilities (there are even some superheroes who are, literally, gods). No, the thing that I like best about Superman is actually when he is put on a much smaller scale.

I can pinpoint the exact moment where I fell in love with his character – and you can find it easily if you just Google ‘Superman and the jumper’. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the comic shows Superman fly to a rooftop where a woman is planning to commit suicide. Rather than pull her off the roof, he commits to talking to her, trying to understand and help her, to convince her that life is worth living. And, of course, just like with all superhero stories, he wins in the end. The first time that I saw this comic, I cried. I cried because the writers could have chosen any superhero to have this conversation with the suicidal girl, and they chose Superman. They chose the hero with god-like abilities, the one who, out of any of them, should be the most detached from problems smaller than aliens trying to destroy the planet, and yet he wasn’t. He was still there, taking time out of his day to talk to this girl who wasn’t a danger to anyone but herself, because she mattered. Because in the eyes of this incredibly powerful being, every last person matters.

Superman truly is a figure of hope – more than any other superhero I can think of. He represents the hope of a better future. The hope that a man can possess unlimited power and yet still use it for good. The hope that, in the grand scheme of things, we all matter, and that sometimes, things don’t turn out for the worst.

And I get it – that hope is hard to find in times such as these, because lately, it just seems like the world is getting worse and worse. And with such abundant pessimism in the air, we find it easier to turn to heroes such as Batman, heroes who exist within a world of corruption and greed, where things just keep getting worse and worse and worse without any hope for an end. Even Superman has become a darker figure in recent years, killing Zod at the end of 2013’s Man of Steel and even turning into a villainous figure in stories like Injustice: Gods Among Us. But at the end of the day, the way in which Superman is always strongest for me is when he’s a symbol of hope. When he isn’t so much a God, but a man who’s just trying his best to make things right.

And maybe that isn’t what we need right now. Maybe we need the darkness, just for a bit. But I hope we never lose sight of the idea that we can always bring back the light.

The Exciting Arrival of a New Year

New Year’s is such a strange holiday.

Because, on the one hand, it’s of bafflingly little importance. We stay up until midnight to ring in the new year, and then nothing really happens. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just another day – the exact same as yesterday, and the day before. We don’t suddenly get a do-over, we don’t magically become new and improved people. The earth just starts on a new revolution around the sun and that’s that.

But, at the same time, doesn’t it feel oddly important? When the clock strikes twelve, and the new year comes in, don’t you suddenly feel a little inspired? A little bit new? As though all the sins of your past belong to last year, and this is a fresh start. This is a chance to be better, to do better, to learn more. You don’t have to be the same person that you were in 2016, because now, 2017 has come around to change everything.

And maybe part of that comes from our understanding of just how much can change in a year. A year may be short in the grand scheme of our lives (after all, depending on where/how/when we live, we get approximately eighty of them), but all it takes is one year for everything to change. In one year, we can meet the love of our lives. In one year, we can discover a dream or a talent. In one year, we can finally see everything that we’ve worked so hard to create come into place. In one year, we can both conceive and give birth to an entirely new human being, one that may not even be a thought in our minds currently. Who knows where we’ll be a year from now, because, speaking personally here, I know for damned sure that I am not the same person now that I was a year ago.

And I think New Year’s is a reminder of that. It comes around once a year, not to change anything, technically, but to re-inspire us to change our lives for the better, to strive to make 2017 a better year than 2016 was. Maybe it doesn’t always work out the way we expect it to. Maybe we discover that we don’t have the resolve to keep our New Year’s resolutions after all. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t countless unforeseen adventures coming for us in the next year, and today is a day to be excited for their arrival.

Borrowing Hope

America in the 1950’s.

Slavery was a thing of the past, but racism was still an ever-present and intense part of daily life.

The women who had held jobs during World War 2 wanted them again, forcing the patriarchal society to launch a campaign celebrating the ‘perfect housewife’ – that heterosexual, white, humble, suburban  woman who was satisfied with nothing but cooking and cleaning and taking care of her self-sacrificing and golly-good man.

Really, life wasn’t all that great for anyone who wasn’t a straight, white, middle-to-upper-class man, and I’m not even convinced it was all flowers-and-sunshine for them either, being forced to play the role of the masculine, stable, unemotional breadwinner as they were.

And yet, the 1950’s is one of the most romanticized eras to the youth of our generation.

I find myself doing it too. Though I’m perfectly aware that America in the 1950’s had its intense, irreparable problems, I still maintain that human style and beauty reached its zenith in the 1950’s. My signature look on a day-to-day basis involves winged eyeliner and red lipstick, and whenever I can find it, cute polka-dots and retro dresses.

The 1950’s was an era characterized by images. The image of the high school sweethearts sharing a milkshake at the local diner. The image of the bad-boy greaser, smoking a cigarette while he leans against an old car. They’re all highly idealized images, of course, but they’re powerful images nonetheless, and I think that they stick with a lot of us.

But that isn’t the only thing that I find myself envying the 1950’s for. No, there’s something else, and something that I think to be a bit more important.

Hope.

Hope for a bigger and brighter future.

And, I know, that sounds like a funny thing to characterize the era with, when they were constantly paranoid of being bombed by Russians (which, really, is kind of cute in retrospect, isn’t it?). But there was something else going on at the time, something that I think we’re missing nowadays.

The Space Race.

Something that was based in a competitive need to be better than another country resulted in hope. It resulted in people looking up at the stars and being struck by the reality that they might reach them someday. It resulted in countless writers, artists, film makers, trying to imagine a planet beyond our own, a civilization built entirely separate from human life. It resulted in people theorizing about all the possibilities. Could humans ever visit the moon? How about Mars? Could they possibly terraform another planet and live there? Sure, why not!

And that’s something that’s sorely missing nowadays. The question of ‘could we’ has been answered too often with ‘of course not’. Funding for NASA has become less and less of a priority, and why wouldn’t it when there are so many enemies on earth to be killed? Visions of a utopian future where we all drive hover-cars and have robot maids have been replaced with visions of dystopias, where, best case scenario, we’ve become hardened badasses who stomp zombie skulls beneath our heavy boot. We are awash in pessimism, looking toward the stars and seeing nothing more than another terror, something else that could possibly kill us.

Don’t get me wrong, pessimism isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I just hate that it’s become our only option. I hate that people no longer dream, they just hope to stay afloat.

And maybe that’s related more to our maturing as a human race. Maybe, in the 1950’s and 60’s, we looked toward the stars with wide, hopeful eyes because we were young and innocent, still naive about what we were capable of, and maybe now we’re a little bit older and a little bit more experienced. But that doesn’t give us any sort of excuse to just give up. To stop wanting to better ourselves and build forward.

I think we need hope. I think we need something to keep us dreaming, to make us keep striving toward some brilliant, if unattainable end goal. And I think that’s something that America had in the past that it no longer does: a desire to move beyond the bad and create the good.

So maybe we shouldn’t go back to the 1950’s. The gender roles were stifling, and the racism was… well, a little bit more upfront than it is now. But we can always borrow from it – borrow some of that hope that we lost somewhere along the way, and bring it to the modern day. Bring it here so that we can start looking to the stars again and asking, without pessimism, without doubt, “what can we do?”