Hope vs. fear

As I’ve often said, I don’t like putting politics on PPC. I’ve done it before, of course, but I don’t like to make a habit of it. Tonight, however, I think it’s necessary. We’re about 24 hours removed from the polls closing on the most tumultuous election in recent memory.

This was a race between hope and fear.

I’m a libertarian. I’ve said that enough before. I consider myself a strict constitutionalist, and I try to justify all my stances by referring to our nation’s founding documents. My vociferous objection to mask mandates and other measures taken in the (IMO, misguided) battle against the Wuhan coronavirus boil down to that: they’re unconstitutional on their face. Bans on public gatherings are in direct conflict with the First Amendment’s right of assembly. Contact tracing is a violation of the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable, warrantless searches. And so on.

That said, although I did not vote for him, I spent last night wanting Donald Trump to win. A direct about-face from my stance 4 years ago, yes, and for the same reason I opposed him then: I’m concerned about American civil liberties. As our national political game has become a team sport, where one must choose Team Red or Team Blue, I could only choose Red.

Why? Because the Republicans, no matter how awful I find some of their beliefs, ran on a campaign of hope. We can be better, they say. Don’t be afraid, don’t cower in your basement. On the other side, the Democrats’ message was all about fear. We have to be scared of the virus with a 99.87% survival rate. We have to hide away until every last vestige of freedom has been smothered.

Worse, though, is the way some Democrats seemed to glorify division. That’s not to say Republicans were triumphing unity, mind you, but when one side is saying that I should be ashamed of who I am, what I stand for, because of things I can’t change (my race, my sex, etc.), and the other tells me that we should all have the same opportunity no matter who we are, well, my choice is clear. Even if that other side’s promises are hollow, why would I want to support those who hate me by default?

Xenophobia is real. It has many guises: racism, sexism, classism, attacks based on religion or disability or a thousand other things. We, as humans, are naturally xenophobic to some degree. It’s what keeps us alive. Without some concept of us versus them, we couldn’t form the social bonds necessary to create civilization. The excesses are horrible, true, but we should treat them like the outliers they are.

And we should strive to be better. Always. As people, as a people.

We, as humans, can rise above our petty differences. We’ve put men on the moon, we’ve harnessed the power of the atom, we’ve created a world our ancestors would call nothing short of magical. We didn’t do all those things because we were afraid. Far from it. And the challenges of the future will fall to us if we’re hopeful. Men on Mars. New cures for diseases. Fusion power. Geo-engineering. We can achieve great things if we work together.

But too many people would rather be afraid. They would rather hide away from the danger, the risk, associated with any great endeavor. What if someone dies? What if we can’t do it? What if it the cost is too great?

For two years now, I’ve been trying to pull myself out of the wreckage that is my life. I’ve been trying to get a job, find true love, start a family…in short, be a man. And I’ve suffered a lot of setbacks in that span, a lot of failures. I’ve risked my mental health in multiple ways. I’ve been severely depressed, or so consumed by anxiety that I can’t even type for my hands shaking. I’ve been on the verge of suicide, ready to grab the nearest gun and pull the trigger. And I got back up. I tried again.

At this point, even I’m not sure why I keep going. It’s not faith, because the past day has shown me how much of my faith in humanity has been misplaced. But the other two virtues, hope and love, still somehow burn within. Oh, they’re flickering, sputtering flames. I won’t deny that. They’re apt to go out at any time. They have before.

I love my family. I love the one I so desperately wish I could add to that family. And, to bring this back on topic, I love my country. I’m a patriot, in the classical sense of the word. The ideals of America, the self-evident truths upon which our nation was founded, are ideals I share. All men are created equal. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights. Government should fear the people, not the other way around.

That never changes, no matter who is in power. Any party must hold to these ideals, or they no longer represent this country. They no longer represent me.

America is not a nation of cowards. We didn’t meekly surrender to the redcoats, the Nazis, or the Soviets. We fought for what we believe in. In some cases, we fought a lost cause: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. And those were, in large measure, political struggles.

In our darkest hours, though, we fought on because of hope. And we see that tonight. While one side claims a very dubious victory in favor of fear, the other keeps hope alive. Truthfully or not, they believe that freedom itself is at stake.

We’ve survived worse times in the past. If we’re on the road to a second Civil War, as some claim, that would indeed match the lowest point of American history. It would be bad for everyone, but we would emerge stronger, more unified.

As for me, I don’t know. This week has taken a lot out of me. That’s why I didn’t do any Nanowrimo writing today. I just couldn’t. But I think I’m done with national politics. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the people’s voice is shouting into the abyss. Until we, as Jefferson put it, water the Tree of Liberty, it’ll stay that way. We’re pawns in a bigger game, crossing our fingers that we don’t get captured.

We hope. That’s what human beings do.

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