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Optimism is a Form of Resistance

We are overwhelmed with the rage. We are overwhelmed with the grief. We are overwhelmed with the fear.

At times, these past weeks, it has felt immobilizing.

I live in a state where abortion will soon be criminalized in all cases, except to preserve the life of the mother. There will be no exception for rape or incest, just as it is in Ohio, where a 1

0-year old girl is pregnant – a situation that only results from rape made even more cruel by the victim’s age – and public officials are looking us in the eye, expecting us to take them seriously when they suggest it is God’s will that this little girl be made to carry this child to term.

I won’t have to explain this to my own 13-year-old daughter. She’s too smart for explanations, she’s already absorbed the news and the analysis and has discussed it among her friends.

No, I’ll take her on a car ride with no destination and I’ll hear her rage at a world that is hostile and oppressive to her existence, her very body, by design.

I’ll watch my wife mourn the loss of our daughter’s autonomy. I’ll watch my wife mourn the loss of the world she grew up in, one that could be narrow and limiting if you were a woman born in the wrong place but was nonetheless safer than the one we’ve now created for our daughter.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the magnitude of this, especially when it is one more horrific thing among a parade of the grotesque – like children shot so many times in school they can only be identified by DNA and footwear or bullets pouring from an AR-15 in rapid succession into a crowd at a Fourth of July Parade.

Remember when children separated from their parents and put in cages was sickening? Does that one even register anymore, or are we too far gone for that to qualify as horror?

All of this takes its toll, makes it difficult for us to muster the energy to do anything more than move through the day. Numb and dissociated, we wake up, get dressed. Go to work,

come home. Put food on the table. Stare at the TV.

And some days that’s all we have. But, remember that those who benefit from the awful state we’re sinking into want it this way. They want us numb, docile, compliant. So pessimistic that any part of our autonomy or freedom can be saved that we will be too tired to do anything about it.

Optimism is a form of resistance. I don’t mean naivete´ or blind faith. I mean confronting how dark this moment really is, how difficult it feels, yet still finding that kernel of a better life that you are striving to create and nurturing it. Because that’s what they can’t stand, the thought that there’s even a little spark left in you.

Yes, it’s getting dystopian out there. But, loving your partner, raising your children to be good human beings, being kind to your co-worker who doesn’t fit in, taking care of your aging parents or grandparents, being a good and decent friend to those who are struggling -- especially marginalized people or those who don’t hold power and privilege -- each of these acts gives the finger to the cruel and dehumanizing forces that want us to live in fear and isolation. Each of these acts requires a certain amount of optimism, a belief that it’s all going to work out in the end.

It may not be radical. It may not change the world in a single act. But if you can keep them from snuffing out that spark that says it’s worth the risk to love your neighbor, then you are not yet subjugated. And as long as you haven’t been subjugated, anything is possible.

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