Tuesday Thoughts with Sean – On Hope

Tuesday Thoughts with Sean – On Hope

It was hard to identify something to write about this week. I could have spent 800 words talking about the (second) impeachment of Donald Trump after the events on the 6th. I could have spent more words dissecting the details of incoming President Biden’s coronavirus plan, and its jockeying for position to snatch the headlines away from a semantic clarification that ‘2000 dollar checks actually means 1400 dollars in addition to what Trump gave you’.

But that’s not what feels most important at the moment.

No – what feels most important to me, is a reminder to myself and to others about hope. 

Admittedly, hope has been fairly hard to come by these days. Especially because the frayed tethers to other humans for most people right now are social media platforms that are built to stoke the worst impulses in our social behaviors – doomscrolling, lashing out, and bad faith cynicism that is somehow framed as smart tactics. 

But – we can’t lose sight of being guided by hope in a better tomorrow, and a better world in the future – one that we can actually create together. 

Just this last week, in Illinois, the longest standing speaker of a statewide House in the country – Michael Madigan – was forced out of his role. He was a corrupt, craven symbol of unshakeable power, and his sudden demise is something that should absolutely be celebrated (even if his successor is not). 

One of the other victories that was being celebrated alongside this in IL was the passage of a bill to eliminate cash bail (alongside many other victories for racial justice). This has been a fight for organizers in Chicago nearly as long as I’ve been living in this city, and seeing many of my friends and comrades celebrate the end of a long campaign was an extremely concrete example of what being hopeful in the midst of disaster all around us. 

Many organizers have been quoting the words of Mariame Kaba for the last – namely, that ‘hope is a discipline’. What does it mean to make a discipline out of hope, though? 

Well – the most important piece, no matter what, is collective action. Working together to create the changes in the world that we want to see. It’s a different vision than the one of hoping that our elected politicians will do the right thing, or trusting that the individual actions we take will be enough to stave off all the global crises we face. Instead, it’s about making a choice every time we meet together, every time we gather in the streets, every time we put our organizational affiliations next to our names, that the people doing the same are making the same commitments as us and that our strength together will eventually be great enough to overpower those who only want to squeeze out profit and self-enrichment from the lives of those around them. 

Creating a discipline of hope also means knowing our history – campaign by campaign, moment by moment. 4 years ago, when the inauguration of Donald Trump happened, on January 20th 2017, I had many friends in Washington DC that were taking collective action together, for a demonstration they were calling ‘J20’. There were black-clad anarchists marching through downtown Washington, and there was a ‘festival of Resistance’ with families and organizers with pamphlets, and there were nonviolent blockades working to disrupt the spectacle that a reality TV star was spinning up – all of it pushing back on the idea that those in motion together would allow these politics to peacefully ascend. 

Now, 4 years later, 400000 people are dead from a virus that those in power have allowed to rip through our communities and one of the primary architects of mass incarceration is about to take the oath of highest office. But the balance of forces looks different. The largest socialist organization in the country is 90000 militants strong, the labor movement is aligning around clear priorities, and the general mood is: “No honeymoons.” We’re ready to take action – and that’s the result of creating a discipline of hope. A discipline that can create tangible change in the world, fight for a better tomorrow, and also think beyond just tomorrow to the vision of what we want to see. 

Let’s keep it up.