Hope v. Horror: no contest

Posted: August 19, 2012 in philosophy
Tags: , , , , ,

In roughly eleven weeks we as a people will decide the path our nation and our republic will walk over the next four years. In these choices voters decide their private futures for that same four years.

Many of us believe that more than just four years are at stake in our election day decisions. Those who believe this particular election represents decades or centuries rather than a brief cycle of four years approach election day with either hope or horror (or, perhaps, with both).

Last month I learned that a friend who violated the terms of his probation – my ‘brother from a different mother’ – will spend the next four years in a maximum security prison. Hope and horror are in play when I think of what those four years – and the days and years following his release – could be for him.

Which is a more powerful or effective motivator: horror or hope?

Reading or watching the news and editorials one is tempted to believe the former. Electioneering is a spectacle of fear-mongering and handwringing.

Which is a more powerful or effective motivator: horror or hope?

When you know well what usually happens to an individual when incarcerated, one’s immediate response could easily be the former.

Hope can spring eternal. Horror can spring from experience.

My friend is extraordinarily talented and strong willed. If he focuses his attentions on what he can achieve, not what has come before or what couldhappen after, an amazing future awaits him when he gets home.

As in the early nineteen hundreds we have another rare opportunity in the course of human history to take a massive leap in material and intellectual achievement. Unlike then, however, today we’ve experience as our guide.

If experience and example was his and my only guide I’d expect my ‘brother’ to come home angry, defeated, and bitter over how his life had gone so wrong. He’d be justified in commiserating with those who care about him about having had spent what would be a decade within the confines and control of the correctional system. He’ll likely have horror tales of life behind bars. He will likely also face many more horrors post prison when he meets new folks and they learn he’s an ex con.

If experience was my only guide I’d expect voters to choose a candidate who speaks eloquently of change and hope, one who had promised he’d fix what has gone wrong. We have spent the past ten years in a malaise of bitterness and resignation over depressed economic conditions, what seems like never ending wars, and a bitter politics reflecting a decade of poor leadership.

I pray experience is not my nation’s nor my friend’s only guide. It will not be mine. It rarely is.

I’ve got hope as well.

Hope guided men to traverse the Atlantic in the midst of war, economic hardship, and political horror in pursuit of better days. From running from moral corruption to leading a new type of nation by moral example.

Hope guided a man I met this past spring to learn from his experience in prison – to go from drug dealing and gang leading to earning his GED, his Masters degree, and then to an early release from prison. Today he is the chaplain of a city mission. His example has been a moral guide for young men who have shared his experience as a con. From the pimps to the pulpit.

I hope to help my friend just as he, in giving me inspiration, helped me once and still. In very dark days my friend gave me hope. Today he faces darkness I cannot pretend to understand. I hope to show, by example, that life can be all one wishes it to be, regardless of one’s past or experience.

To begin this guidance I’ll tell him about the chaplain. I plan as well to demonstrate by a more personal example. I will, in four years, have my own experience he can take away as a guide. In four years I will have gone from the city mission to leading by doing.

From homelessness to hope and home building.

I know my friend and my nation will be fine. Experience has been a guide. It’s not the only one.

Despite all that has happened in his short life my ‘brother from a different mother’ has always been a burst of sunshine for people lucky enough to meet him. He inspires optimism. Despite terrible life experience he always smiles and walks tall, taking on the world with a spring in his step. He brings hope.

My Nation and all she represents has survived much in what is, by comparisons in history, her young life. She is yet still, almost paradoxically, the longest living Republic. It is no paradox nor accident of history. She represents hope in the face of experience.

Horror over what we could face post election day? Hardly.

Horror over what might happen to and within my friend?

Please….Have you been listening?

Hope v. Horror?

There is no contest.

Politicians and pundits ought to be listening to voters and potential voters also.

Election day is eleven weeks away. They ain’t seen nothing yet.



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