Realizing Hope Requires Action

Ed. Note:This is not a “Bash Obama from the Left” post. All told, I feel his administration has accomplished a lot, some things better than others. Rather, this post seeks to address the particular problems surrounding perception and reality, idealism and the circumstances one finds one self in while seeking that idealistic end, as well as the hard work, and hard fight ahead of all who seek that better tomorrow.

Hope is a beautiful thing. It comforts us when things are going badly. It gives us a vision of a better future. It is one of the first steps on the path to finding a better life, but it is only a first step.

Hope, by itself, doesn’t change anything. It is a recognition that things could change. It is a belief in that change. It is not an action.

Hope, by itself, does not move. It has no momentum. Hope is a motivator, but not necessarily a mover. Hope requires additional energy to become anything. It requires focus and direction to actually inspire action.

So while hope in something or someone can motivate people to action, ultimately it doesn’t necessarily move people. People move people. Seeing people do things that you would like to do moves people. Hearing about an activity or a cause that aligns with your worldview moves people. But hope? Not necessarily.

In fact, hope can be slow progress. Hope can cause you to stop what you’re doing in the belief that someone else is doing it for you. Hope can give you the sense that someone else has got your back, whether they really do or not. And when you find out they don’t, all that hope you’ve been holding on to feels pretty empty.

There’s an old saying that applies to the idea of hope, “Wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see which one fills up the first.” Hope is a wish that is yet, unrealized.

Ultimately, hope is nothing without action. It is a dream, a concept, but it has no mass. It is not concrete until some action is taken. Its potential is unfulfilled. So while politicians and marketers are deft at harnessing the power of hope to achieve their goals, we all have to realize that once that goal is achieved for them, the goals we held may get cast aside if we aren’t vigilant.

And we haven’t been vigilant. While candidates on both sides of the aisle have harnessed hope, neither have delivered on that potential, because the reality is, delivering the promise of hope is very hard, no matter how badly you want it.

There are a million things out there that are hell bent on maintaining the status quo in opposition to hope. There’s big money to be made in making sure nothing happens. And in the face of that adversity, if that army of hopers has disengaged, or withdrawn, or ignored this reality by continuing to fight for that hope, realizing that hope becomes harder and harder, and eventually gets lost in the noise of those who want to maintain the status quo and the shuffling feet of those who have walked away instead of fighting.

We have to be willing to fight, and we haven’t been fighting. We watch as it bounces back and forth just about every 2 year cycle, and are told “Americans wanted this then, but now they want that”. People build up their hope then push that button on election day and wake up disappointed the next morning that what they hoped for hasn’t been fully implemented, forgetting that hope is an idea to be put into action. Hope is just a first step, not the destination.

There are a lot of things to be hopeful for here in Memphis, in Tennessee, and in the United States, but if we want to see these things happen, we have to move beyond hope and put our hope into action. We have to be willing to sacrifice our time outside of the Labor Day to election day cycle and involve ourselves in the sausage making if we want the sausage to turn out to our liking.

And even though there are plenty of barriers, both external and internal, to involving ourselves on this level, we have seen, or at least we SHOULD have seen, over years of participation in just the hoping end of the process, which hand has been filling up first.

The downside of hope is that hope alone accomplishes little. It takes continual and persistent action to make things happen. The downside of hope is that we can become complacent and fool ourselves into believing that hope is action. And through that complacency, be easily swayed by those working to maintain what they have at the expense of what we want. The downside of hope is that it can be easily mistaken as the end instead of the means.

Over the next several weeks and months there will likely be even less clarity surrounding the things we hope for. There will be adversity, and good news and bad news. But while we have this hope for something new and better, we cannot take our eye off what we want at the end, and we cannot forget what we were working for in seeking this end. But to truly achieve this end, we have to stay engaged, both in the processes before us, and the things that will come: City elections in October, Presidential primaries in February, a national election a year from November, and all the city, county, state and federal processes that come between now and then.

While it may seem overwhelming, just involving yourself in any one of these will inform your understanding of all of them, the individual challenges, the things that need to be addressed. Ultimately, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. No one on their own can change everything, but you can keep the hope of change alive by continuing to work for that better tomorrow, by engaging and informing yourself on the process, and by inserting yourself in the conversation as is your right to do.

The more of us that stay engaged, the more likely that better tomorrow will come.

It won’t happen through hope alone, but if we allow that hope to drive us to action, to stay engaged and never lose sight of the end we seek, our hope can become a reality.

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