Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hope for the Holidays

Once upon a time, the comedy show In Living Color featured a skit lampooning Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign. Jackson's campaign slogan "Keep hope alive" morphed into a sketch in which Jim Carey, the show's token white guy, played an ancient, wheelchair-bound Bob Hope. "Hope" was clad in a hospital gown and connected to an IV while the rest of the cast, dressed as doctors, nurses and orderlies, fussed over him and vowed to "Keep Hope alive".

Jackson wasn't the first politician to spin hope into a slogan, and he won't be the last. Bill Clinton's biography is "A Town Called Hope". Barack Obama titled his autobiographic tome "The Audacity of Hope". Artist Shepard Fairey used the word all by its lonesome under his bold, Warholesque portrait of Obama to create what is probably the most famous American political poster since Uncle Sam Wants YOU!

The Obama victory, and the impending departure of Bush and Cheney are a great relief to most of us (67% of the population, according to Bush's latest approval rating) but these days, it's hard not to feel like hope is on life support. The global economy is globally lousy. Unemployment goes up every week. The stock market keeps dropping, like the sea level right before a tsunami, exposing a variety of invertebrates, parasites and bottom feeders. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Healthcare is broken. The polar ice caps are dissolving while Tennessee drowns in toxic sludge. Our kids are ignorant and proud of it and the cost of educating them has never been higher. Iraq may or may not hold together if and when we finally pull out, and Afghanistan ain't looking too good. The environment remains on the global back burner, with the temperature on high. Israel and Hamas are at it again, apparently mutually incapable of learning from experience.

Even as I write this, I have to keep reminding myself that 'tis the season for hope. For Christians, Christmas is a yearly reminder of the hope Jesus gave mankind. For Jews, Chanukah represents the hope of religious freedom. And for anyone who's had a lousy year, this is your time to hope next year will be better - especially encouraging when next year starts tomorrow.

If you're suffering from H.A.D. (Holiday Affective Disorder) try remember that hope isn't just seasonal: it's eternal. A uniquely human expression of the survival instinct, woven into our DNA. And it's contagious. Hope inspires, connects and motivates. It's overthrown dictators, cured diseases, signed peace treaties and cleaned up toxic waste sites. And it starts with you and me. So here's to the hope in our hearts. May it grow, and thrive and spread to everyone around us. May we all look forward to a healthy, healing, peaceful and productive new year. And above all, may we keep hope alive.

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