The Loss of Optimism

I’m an optimistic person. I’m not unrealistic, but my natural assumption is that things will work out OK in the end. I don’t deny the bad things that happen, I just feel like we’ll be able to work through or past them. It works for me. It keeps me hopeful and looking forward. It extends into every area of my life. Or, at least, it used to. Lately, when I think about politics in the US, I realize I’ve lost my optimism.

I think the optimism generally comes from always seeing a path out of the darkness. That’s not to say I have all the answers or need to know the specifics. For example, I can be optimistic about the eventual cure for horrible diseases. Medical professionals are getting better all the time. They can treat all kinds of things now that they couldn’t before. That’s the path I follow to stay optimistic. I don’t know anything about the actual science involved. I just know that very smart people are working on it and making progress.

When it comes to politics in the US, I can’t see a path. I don’t just mean that all I see is bad, I mean that I don’t see any way out of it. I was born during the Ford administration, a direct result of Watergate, and not only have we not recovered from Watergate, things just keep getting worse. I have no actual experience of a government working properly. There don’t seem to be any smart people working on the problem.

Demographics used to give me hope. I just figured we had to hold on and stop the government from implementing full fledged apartheid for another twenty-five to thirty-five years. Then no amount of gerrymandering will be able to stop the new majority. Now that the bad guys have turned fascist and are getting away with it, I’ve lost hope in the demographics.

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, before the midterm elections. I decided not to publish it then because I still had (a little bit of) hope. I had hope that the “blue wave” was real. That this election would be the start of something. That Trump was the final straw and things were really going to start getting better. After the election, though, all I feel is discouraged. I don’t know what would have satisfied me. I certainly needed Democratic control of the Senate. I probably needed more than 25 Democrats as governors. We got none of that. There was no blue wave. The Democrats took the House of Representatives, and that’s it. The reliably blue states went blue, and the reliably red states went red. Nothing’s changed. Well, some reliably blue states elected Republican governors, so maybe things got worse.

I’ve been wracking my brains trying to come up with a way to stay optimistic, but ultimately failing. The one thought that I keep returning to is that the United States is simply broken. There is no way to fix it. We need to start over. But, half the country doesn’t even recognize the problem. That half of the country has no interest in starting over. That leaves secession as the only path I can see to fix these problems. And that path is too flimsy for my hope to rest on.

Being a pessimist is awful. I don’t know how people do it. So, I’m asking for your help. Help me find hope. Help me find something that can make me optimistic again. Show me the path, please.

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