I am not playing Pollyanna or lifting my own spirits with a pep talk. But I don’t want to watch the approaching darkness in passivity. Lord knows I don’t recognize the United States of yesterday morning as anything like the country that I grew up in, in whose army I served, whose history I proudly taught. Likewise, what keeps me from banging my head against the wall is simple gratitude to have lived a privileged life in the good times of the ’50s and parts of the ’60s. I don’t miss them in the way many Trump voters do. They recall them as times of American supremacy, when Uncle Sam bestrode the world, as a friend of mine once said, with mistletoe tied to his coat tails. But I do recall them as far kinder and gentler to the least powerful of us than the last 40 years have been (and yes, I don’t shirk the social barriers facing African-Americans, gays and women that existed then but that we have partly overcome.) So, given this personal luck, plus the gifts of a loving family and the comforts of the arts and the special luck of good health, I think it would be a waste of time and a shame for me to sulk and grumble the rest of my life away.
Is that Pollyanna speaking? No — we may be past the point of no return. But remember Pandora’s box: When she opened it, she let all the troubles of humankind loose upon us — but the last thing to emerge was hope, which keeps us alive. To hope is vital, but to hope with action is what will save us, if anything does.