Why I Cling To Hope.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

I know no one wants to hear anymore about politics. I know.

Let me, instead, tell you about my broken heart.

I am 28 years old, born in 1980.

I have heard stories about the 70′s. I’ve read about the 60′s. I’ve seen Martin Luther King, JR. and John F. Kennedy speak via old newsreels and memorial reruns. My grandparents come from The Greatest Generation. My parents grew up fantasizing about the Peace Corps and Free Love.

I know about inspiration secondhand.

My generation has watched Paris Hilton become a celebrity based on her party habits and wardrobe. I am firmly sandwiched between The Me Generation and Generation X. When people reminisce about the 80′s and the 90′s – the decades I *grew up* in, they swap stories about hair gone wrong, peg rolled jeans and Miami Vice. Sure, VH1 loves the 80s – for their Monster Ballads, Hair Bands and the emergence of Bubble Gum Pop.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a part of something that would still matter in 20 years. I’ve heard about the marches and the sit-ins and the rebellions, and I’ve wondered what it must be like to live in a nation that was gripped with awareness and fight.

The country I have known my entire life is one of apathy.

We say that we don’t discuss politics because “it just leads to a fight”, but what we really mean is “everyone gets pissed and it doesn’t matter anyway.”

I’ve heard it used to matter.

I’ve heard that protesters and disillusioned youth had the power to rip a society from the safety net of black & white TV into the explosive reality of life in Technicolor.

I’ve heard there was a time when people had a “Dream”, and when they were encouraged to ask “what you can do for your country”. The sound bites that people born in 1980 remember include “read my lips” and “not gonna do it”, or “it’s the Economy, stupid”. Somehow, those tid bits have the power to move me.

I’ve always imagined it must be an amazing thing to care like that, like King and JFK and the bra burners and the hippies and the anti-establishment protesters. And how thrilling it must have been, for an entire society to be caught up in “caring” right along side you – whether they agreed with you or not.

It wasn’t until recently that I thought I might actually have the opportunity to experience that firsthand. As I watched people become more angry with the current administration, I wondered if it might lead somewhere this time. I felt a fire light inside me that made me believe that we might still be connected to the American Story after all.

So, yes, I’ve been clinging to the Audacity of Hope for the past several months.

I have let myself be filled up with Optimism.

I have allowed myself to be inspired by the idea that Yes, We Can make a difference.

It is the first time in my memory that I can recall MY society having that chance.

I was certain this was it, this was our moment – our opportunity to leave our mark. It felt so right, so alive, so unlike anything we’ve been a part of before.

And now I feel like I’m watching that all… slip away.

It would not be an exaggeration to tell you that it hurts. It hurts to watch the infighting. It hurts to see the old apathy I’ve always known settle back in. It brings tears to my eyes to see our hope, my hope, be stolen away from us by bitterness and manipulation.

When I read comments here and around the Internet from people 15, 20, 30 years older than me who mock the fact that I care, I want to shake my fist in someone’s face and say “you don’t understand! You had your chance!” When I hear the same tired jokes from people my own age, I want to shake them by their shoulders and cry out “don’t you get it? Don’t you see that this time it could be different?”

You bet your ass this is personal to me.

If this doesn’t happen here… now… if my generation squanders this opportunity… if those of us who feel the spark allow ourselves to be silenced by the resistance of the sluggish…

I fear this is it. At least for me and my lifetime.

Perhaps my children will grow up and have their chance, their own fight. Maybe, in spite of the fact that there will be no one left to teach them, they will dig up old sound bites on the Internet and find their own inspiration. Maybe they will pick up the legacy that my colleagues and I have discarded in favor of tabloids and complacency. Maybe. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I live to see it and hear about it once again.

But oh, how I was hoping to be a part of it.

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  1. avitable says:

    We grew up during a Cold War when the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction was very real. In the past twenty years, there have been several terrorist attacks, both from within (Oklahoma) and without (WTC, twice). AIDS became known as a threat to everyone, and crack overtook the ghettos and bad neighborhoods.

    I think you might be selling this generation short as far as having serious, real concerns and events occur.

    Older generations had plenty of frivolous stupidity, too. From Woodstock to Beatlemania to Pet Rocks to Elvis’s hips being too dangerous to show on television.

    You can feel hope and make a change whether you’re 28 or 68, but even considering that, this is an election where people definitely care.

  2. Miss Britt says:

    I don’t mean to imply our generation hasn’t had serious concerns.

    I mean to imply that we haven’t felt like we could do anything about it.

    This is an election where people care. At least it was. I hope that people can hold on to that.

  3. Angie says:

    I am TERRIFIED to my core thinking “what if” we don’t make the change and turn around. We are heading down the path that leads to the dissolution of all that we are.

    You are right that we are apathetic. But who do we follow? Who do we trust?

    Is it Obama?

    I read Audacity of Hope. That’s when I switched from a follower of HRC.

    Obama is the one we must trust to lead us into our revolution.

    I hope.

  4. ADW says:

    I cling to hope every day. I hope that you will one day post pictures of your tatas. I hope that one day, I will get the best present ever: a pool boy named Juan. The pool is optional. I hope that my boobs are “still growing.” I hope that an anonymous fan sends me a bucket of cash.

    See.

  5. TSM says:

    I admire your passion. I wish I shared it.

    Being from the generation before yours (firmly planted in Gen X), I feel a strong sense of disillusionment and find myself reluctant to even participate, much less believe I “can make a difference”. Still, I do it.

    It would take something miraculous to restore my faith in our governmental systems. Really miraculous. Sad, isnt’ it?

  6. Karl says:

    Great post, Britt. You’re very right, things are totally different now. When I was a boy, I frequently wrote letters to famous people, including the presidents (Ford and Carter). They both sent me autographed photos and a letter and I was proud to have them because the President of the United States (even after Nixon) was still someone this young boy held in high esteem.

    That’s changed now. I really haven’t seen a President that Little Karl would care to ask for an autographed photo. It’s sad, but we’ve definitely slipped downhill, and fast.

    I’m saddened by the political sniping and backstabbing, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Once again we’re stuck going with the lesser of evils as far as voting goes.

    Every one of them said they were going to fight a “clean campaign.” Yeah, right.

  7. AmyD says:

    :slaphead: ADW freaking kills me. I’ve got nothing. :lol:

  8. As a child of Gen X(i think?!) I am so appalled by my peers it isn’t funny. We walk around taking what we have for granted not recognizing the fights that have occurred so that we could do what we do today.

    The people who fought for our right to be apathetic, and uncaring.

    This is my first presidential election in which I can participate, and as it sits right now, I am still not even sure how to feel, as none of the issues that matter to me, are being addressed.

  9. RW says:

    Though some people may have thought that Woodstock was “frivolous stupidity” it was actually a cultural landmark that marked a definite nexus between the prominence of one worldview over an older one. A worldview the religious right has had to work for decades to put back in the bottle and is still struggling to contain. But if you weren’t around before or right after it, you couldn’t possibly notice. However it should be noted that marginalizing cultural landmarks without thought about their context is more a trait of these times than others. It allows sick humor to be seen as genius and the quick bypass as the essence of cool. This is a fault of the age we now live in. And what passes for a complete thought in 2008 is often the equivalent of a soggy belch in 1968.

    That said, speaking as someone who saw JFK alive and in person, it’s also possible to romanticize the past so much that we make it unrecognizable.

    The plain fact is JFK’s “ask not” speech happens to be the basis for the Bush/neocon view of the world – where they will “bare any burden, pay any price, oppose any foe…” in the cause of freedom. We’re “nation building” in Iraq right now because the architects of the neocon viewpoint were young men when they supported JFK – whose tax cuts and overseas aggression would make him a deliberate Bush Republican right now.

    There is no need, however, for people in your age group to pine away for a cause or some substance. The fight is there.

    I happen to know of a ton of people in your age area who are working their asses off to bring a vicious and brutal cult that has thrived on fear for the last 50 years to its knees. But if it isn’t your cause no one can make it so.

    And that’s true of that or politics or anything. You have to want to do something. There is no shortage of things to work for. Darfur. $720 million a DAY shot to shit in Iraq. A lot more.

    So do it. Cut the bwaaaaa and do it. The world isn’t better now than it was 20-40 years ago. There’s no shortage of things to care about.

    You just have to get people off their asses in front of their computers and care about it.

  10. My dad used to try to tell me, “the leaders of both major political parties don’t WANT a real leader. They want a spineless schmo who will do what they say and not rock the boat. That’s why we mostly only get mediocre losers and narcissists. Every now and then a real leader slips past them, but not very often.”

    I know that to you the candidates being offered up for this election are different. I understand that you believe in one of two of them and truly expect them to make a valuable contribution, a real difference, and I offer no criticism of that. But I, on the other hand, am seeing more and more what my father was talking about and why he stopped getting upset or excited when an election year rolled around.

    And also, just today I found out that two of my brothers-in-law are voting Libertarian. And I realized that more and more I am running across people planning to vote that way, while hardly ever saying a word about it to anyone. I think there is a surprise coming in November. So you may get your president after all. I think the conservative voter revolt of 2006 isn’t over.

  11. Jack says:

    I’ll be 39 next month and FWIW I don’t feel like everyone around me is apathetic.

    My bigger concern is that half of them don’t seem to know much about what they are talking about. I hear them bitch and moan about what is going on, but they haven’t a real clue as to how it all works.

    They don’t understand basic civics, know little about economics and less about geography. So it is more disheartening to me to listen to them complain when they don’t understand what they are complaining about.

    P.S. That is not in reference to anyone on this comment thread.

  12. Lisa says:

    I’m totally with Avitable here because I’ve seen the same exact things. I’m 41 but I think age does only one thing here…it makes you see more shit. It doesn’t change the fact that if you are over 18 you have the right to vote or the obligation to educated yourself about politics and what the people you vote into office are doing with your rights.

    Ignorance is a far bigger issue than age, don’t you think???

  13. Lisa says:

    That would be educate…not educated.

    I need more coffee please….

  14. Maria says:

    :ohgreatone: Fabulous post, Britt!

  15. Penelope says:

    What pisses me off the most is people whinging and whining about the state of their (respective) countries and then when you ask “Who did you vote for?” They DIDN’T vote! We get it drummed into us constantly how hard our Grandfathers fought to give us the right to the vote and free speech and how we should never waste it, no matter how hopeless we feel, because it is our only way of changing anything.
    Yet another brilliant post Britt :clap:

  16. Selma says:

    Penelope is right. Voting does make a difference. In Australia it is mandatory to vote and while some people complain about having to vote most people embrace their right to do so. Perhaps I am a naive Gen X-er but I do believe one vote can make a difference. I would encourage anyone who is feeling uncertain about the future to exercise their democratic right and place a vote. I don’t believe hope is lost but I do agree that it seems to have become unfashionable in some sectors of society not to talk about politics. It’s important to discuss it and it needn’t end in fighting. Politics shapes our lives whether we like it or not and we should be able to have an open dialogue about it. Don’t give up yet, Britt. There’s still time to make a difference.

  17. Miss Britt says:

    Angie: OK, I don’t feel so stupid now. Because I was just telling Adam yesterday that it seriously scares the SHIT out of me to think what could happen to us, to this country, if we keep running down this path.

    ADW: I just realized I didn’t show you my tatas when you were here.

    How could that be?!?!

    TSM: yeah, that kind of freaks me out, to be honest.

    Karl: if you wrote a letter to the president now I think it would end up in the trash, next to the newspaper.

    AmyD: yeah, she’s a riot.

    Mackenzie’s Momma: I’m curious – what are the issues that matter to you?

    RW: actually, after writing this post yesterday, I started looking into things I could do (and for what it’s worth, this POST and this BLOG is part of what I do, I think) and MAY have signed up for a few things…

    Memphis Steve: I hope you’re right – about the vote I mean, not that other stuff. :D

    Jack: that is true – people do not take the time to get informed anymore. That’s part of why it’s so frustrating to me to see the news be turned into what it is.

    Lisa: the only reason I was bringing up age is because I think that people specifically my age have a different view of the world than people older than us – sometimes people forget about the things we HAVEN’T lived through.

    But yes, education is ultimately the biggest thing.

    Maria: thank you.

    Penelope: yeah, that infuriates me.

    Selma: REQUIRED to vote? Really? I’ve never heard of that.

  18. Finn says:

    I live in hope; if I didn’t I wouldn’t get up in the morning. And I believe that a lot of people do as well but have felt powerless.

    If people weren’t ready for change I don’t think the Democrats would have to choose between a woman and an African-American. We are ready for change. We just have to raise our voices a bit louder.

    Just like you just did.

  19. GeorgeH says:

    “I have allowed myself to be inspired by the idea that Yes, We Can make a difference.”

    What difference?

    We have a worn out old warhorse who is too much a professional maverick to accomplish anything important, the female reincarnation of Richard Nixon and a Chicago machine politician who wants to be the North American Hugo Chavez.

    The only possible difference is how old I’ll be after Obama sends me to a political re-education camp.

  20. I guess, I see things differently than you do. I strongly believe in voting, I have voted now for 10 years…. I believe that even though I only get one vote, it can make a difference. No matter who I vote for.

    I also tell people my age and younger that it is their duty as an American to go and vote.

  21. debkitty says:

    Oh how I wish I was still as idealistic as you are. I was at one time. I don’t know what happened to me that made that burn out.

  22. Being a fellow 1980-er, I totally get it. Important dates in our history? The OJ Trial Verdict… and Surviving Y2K??

    Ugh.

    And if politics aren’t deeply personal to someone, then they’re not doing it right.

  23. Dagny says:

    I am 41, soon to be 42. (The first time I was able to vote was Reagan’s re-election. No, I did not vote for him.) I think Lisa has summed it up for me. And I still haven’t given up hope over this election.

  24. MsMVNJ says:

    Great post Britt. My comments here were so long, I decided to put them into a blog!! See it here: http://livinggraciouslyin34time.blogspot.com/2008/04/to-2008-everybody-miserable.html

  25. Erin says:

    I am also one of those “if you don’t vote, don’t complain” people and being born in 1978, I share in the frustration of “what the hell do people my age actually care about?!?”

    I think that most people want to be good patriots, they just aren’t sure what a good patriot is. There are some, like me, who believe that true American patriotism is embracing our right to yell at our government when we think they are fucking things up. Then there are some who believe that true American patriotism is agreeing with the administration–even if you don’t like them, even if in your head you hate them, on the outside you must agree with them and respect them because they are In Charge.

    Our current administration worked the post 9/11 fear like nobody’s business “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us” and now, even though people are angry and upset and want to fight, they are scared to do so.

    I think, also, that because we have so much access to information, we are able to see our leaders as real people–flaws and all–and it is hard to put real people up on a pedestal the way they used to be able to do. It’s kind of like when you see your teacher at the grocery store on her laundry day. It’s hard to take that teacher seriously after you’ve seen them in a mohair shirt, striped pants and mismatched socks.

    You know, with the thought I put into commenting here (and the length of these things) you’d think I’d just write it down on my own blog! :)

    PS: Even if Obama doesn’t get the nomination or doesn’t win, he’ll still be an important person to follow. Look at all of the important people we believe(d) in who weren’t ever in office–like Martin Luther King Jr.

  26. craze says:

    Hallelujah! I am hoping to be a part of a change America is in desperate need of. What would it have been like to be part of a generation that seemed to truly care?

  27. We aren’t in the same generation, since I’m 39. But Gen X had the Clinton Administration for 8 years. Blowjob escapades aside, he was a pretty excellent President.

    My only fear is that my (and your) generation have one chance (which may be zero, actually), to stop the planet from inexorably spiraling into environmental death.

  28. gramps says:

    I was in college when JFK was killed and I lived the 60s. That old flame was rekindled this year and I was excited. I am still—-but the flame is dying as I tire of all the name calling and degradation of principles.

    gramps

  29. Emily says:

    Hope is all we’ve got left. I don’t plan to give it up without a fight.

  30. Crys says:

    my problem with politics concerns the negativism. it’s bitter, all the time. if for some reason there’s not enough bitterness, then bitterness must immediately be conjured up and manufactured to the masses. it’s bad juju, generally.

    when people feed en masse into that kind of energy it just creates out of control conditions of more of the same. hysteria and anger. and so i remove myself.

    i think older people are not apathetic, they’ve just been through more rounds than younger folks. i also think younger people are more “fiery” because they have yet to be pissed on for half their life by political and social systems. they’ll get there, and they’ll put it all into perspective, too. all vantage points, in my opinion, offer unique and valuable insights.

    i vote. i don’t, however, try to influence anybody else’s vote by telling them what ought to be important to them based on what’s important to me. (this is the cause of so much of the negativism, IMO.) if people want to discuss politics with me, i do so, politely. sure, i have things to say. but when people start short-circuiting and taking it personally (which is often) or make irrational, grandiose statements (also often), i disengage. it just goes nowhere — and what is the best use of our energy? in hope, change, equality, etc. not bitter infighting.

    the sad thing is we don’t know how to debate anymore. we don’t look for common ground, but rather we polarize and bastardize each other. me? i want no part of that.

    i don’t think that’s apathy, i think that’s wisdom.

  31. kapgar says:

    I totally agree with you on the course this election season has taken. It started as one of great promise. Now I just don’t want to see any of them ever again. Can I still vote for Perot?

  32. Allyson says:

    I’ve decided to get excited about living through California falling off the face of the planet, personally. Oh and, 2012.

  33. As someone less than 6 months younger than you: you’re right. We are an apathetic bunch, that really only seems to care about whose snatch has been in the news recently. Sure, we’ve had concerns, but we very quickly gloss over them with whether Jessica Biel’s ass has fallen or who Justin Timberlake is dating today. It’s depressing, because we do this because we don’t feel that we can do anything. Same shit, different day, and we don’t have any power.

    Ugh.

  34. Crys says:

    i tend to assume everyone else is apathetic except for me, but in reality they are probably a lot like me in every way. that makes either me really apathetic or really judgmental. i guess i don’t like either. i like to think of people as being basically good and decent, and then acting accordingly.

    as for 2012 — now THAT’S some interesting stuff!

  35. Wonderful post, dear.

    I feel the same hope, and I’m not ready to say it’s slipping away yet. Politics is ugly, for sure, so this was to be expected. The day is not over yet.

  36. Lynda Scherf says:

    Sometimes, to have a change, you need to be the change.

    You know what I mean?

  37. Miss Britt says:

    Finn: when you say it, it sounds so… plausible.

    GeorgeH: hm. Yeah. I don’t see that at ALL in anything I’ve heard from Obama.

    And I actually like McCain when he used to be a maverick.

    themuttprincess: wait – how is that different? I believe all that. I vote!

    debkitty: I hope I stay idealistic for longer than normal. I like that about me.

    Undomestic Diva: Ah yes, OJ – the TV in the lunchroom at the highschool. :rolleyes:

    Dagny: I’m glad to hear other people use the word “hope”.

    MsMVNJ: oooh – that was good!

    Erin: “Even if Obama doesn’t get the nomination or doesn’t win, he’ll still be an important person to follow. Look at all of the important people we believe(d) in who weren’t ever in office–like Martin Luther King Jr.”

    That’s a great point.

    craze: me too.

    Rich: Oh, I liked Clinton – don’t get me wrong. But things were so good for us then, we really didn’t get “riled up” about much.

    Well, I mean. Aside from the blow jobs.

    gramps: were politics cleaner back then or what? How the heck did it get to this?

    Emily: damn straight. And you’re right. No more cry babying from me!

    Crys: I’m pretty sure you just called me dumb. :wha:

    kapgar: :lol: I’m sure you wouldn’t be the only one.

    Allyson: 2012? Already??

    Captain Steve: exactly – the no power thing is very prominent with people our age I think.

    Crys: um, I tend to think of people as basically good and decent. Maybe we’re not speaking the same language here.

    maggie, dammit: I’m glad to know other people aren’t giving up yet.

    Lynda Scherf: yeah, I do, actually.

  38. Britt- I’m a young single mother, who was recently in our school system so I know first hand how bad it has gotten.

    I feel that education is insanely important, but not just ‘basic’ education(K-12). We need to focus some attention on Secondary education and making it affordable to everyone. I would LOVE to go to college but as it stands right now I am going to have a hard time affording it. We have a shortage of skilled workers in certain fields because of the education shortfalls in the secondary education system.

    I’d also like to see some more support going into the agricultural sector, not as money, but in a bit more protection of the land. As a farmer I know how hard it is to make a living or even break even, and I’m just a small farm I can only imagine what the ‘big producers’ are feeling.

  39. martymankins says:

    Well stated, Britt. And a lot has changed. I grew up in the late 60′s and early 70′s. No internet. No cell phones. Entertainment was dirt and riding bikes. Politics were not plastered all over. I mean, who in the general public knew all of the details with JFK and Marilyn Monroe? Today, that would be front page on TMZ.com

    Karl said it well above by mentioning how personable the leaders used to be. The only person that comes close to that today is Obama, and even he at times seems removed. Not because he wants it that way, but it’s how things are. A constant battle to defend himself against the media whores and the neocons.

    And things will change… time has a way of allowing that. But as to how much better they will get, that’s the unknown.

    Guess we just do what we can to help change and hope for the best.

  40. Britt's Mom says:

    Britter, ONE PERSON can make a difference, and I could list many many examples.

    The thing that Obama himself says is for people to get out and TAKE ACTION – if you see a problem, just get up and DO IT. Start a committee, write letters, talk to people, organize. One step at a time, no one ever knows in advance how big of an impact they can make!

    I love you!!!

  41. Hockeyman says:

    Let’s hope when our kids get older we don’t have to worry about them being on the Internet! ;)

  42. Allyson says:

    Hey, man… It’s the end of the world… And it’s only 4 years away.

    It’s a shame, too, cause I’ve been hoping to see if Marty McFly’s 2015 is anywhere near to the truth, and now I’ll never know.

  43. Northern Pirate says:

    OOOOOOO….you’re down in that dip of despair. As on who just missed actively joining the hope and pure fun of being involved in the late sixties, I try to make up for it any way I can. I discovered that I’m most lijkely a Humanist, a good feeling. I have reared two open minded, loving, sensitive, happy, thinking daughters who are just as mad as you. They live in different states independently from me, just so you know they aren’t “Little Me”s. We don’t need every little environmental suggestion or concern “proven” before we consider its worth. A lot of political and environmental concerns can be disregarded easily if you aren’t a thinker. You are a thinker. You sense what’s happening in our country, to our citizens and you know who’s wrecking our futures. What to do? Be a warrior. Don’t cave. Stay yourself. Resist the mindless collection of stuff. Have fun. Eat great food. Love the hell out of those you love and who love you. Stay away rotten people. Shake things up. Here’s short video you may enjoy. It’s brief but sweet and hopeful.
    http://www.heartmath.org/million_hearts/ I think what life comes down to is doing what you can do personally and carry on. You’re a warrior and your blog is your weapon. Keep at it!

  44. I have three words for you. If you want to do something, DO IT NOW! I only joined very small protests during the 70′s because I thought that when I was older more people would take my opinion seriously. I call bullshit. After teaching middle school every day (Kids have not changed over the 35 years that I have been teaching. People who think that they have haven’t seen that the light in their eyes that is still bright.) I go home to my elderly father who lives with us. Weekends? We get my 3 year old grandson to add to the ‘taking care of’ business. Not only do I not have the oportunity go leave to join causes, NOW people don’t listen to my opinion because I’m too old!
    Do it now! There are people like me who realize that you CAN change our world. We DO respect you opinion. Please make the world a better place for my grandson. I’m counting on your generation. We did the best that we could before our knees got too lame to march, our responsibilities doubled and stole our time, the doctor visits tripled, but the desire never left. Do it for me….please!

  45. Bec says:

    After reading Audacity I put the book down with hope in my heart for your country. I still have that Obama can come through this election with some part of the soul that wrote the book still intact… and that he can lead the world back to some kind of pride.

    And then next year (or 2010) we can dump our idiot and move forwards.

  46. Negative politics is all about getting people to be less passionate about their own candidates so they won’t go out and vote. Negative politics is NOT about getting people to change their minds but is everything about vote suppression.

    Don’t let the Republicans and Clinton throw you off your game. Tell them to fuck off and feel proud of your support for Obama. Anyone that says all politicians are crooks are just drinking smear flavored Kool-Aid.

  47. Janelle says:

    Hey Britt,

    I wrote my last post just for you and this topic :) I hope it give you…. hope.

    http://www.junkfood4thesoul.com/2008/04/this-is-why-i-have-hope.html

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