Hope is in many ways the anti-sarcasm*. Whereas sarcasm calls out, hope speaks into. Whereas sarcasm cuts and explodes, hope seeks to heal and mend. Sarcasm divides and shines a harsh light on the nastiness, hope unites and shines a light on the path towards a better tomorrow.
Yet, the two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, sarcasm works best when it’s enveloped in hope – hope steels sarcasm against the aggressive tides of cynicism.
If sarcasm is a means of contention, hope allows us to contest with a vision to ultimately restore.
The late great educator Howard Zinn says it better than I could hope to. And with a wee bit more mileage under him, I think his words are more trustworthy as well:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magniﬁcently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an inﬁnite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in deﬁance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Hope is an integral weapon in our battles. We should never just hope that we will win, however, but that we may win over and, indeed, not just change our enemies into bitter, mortal enemies, but to change both themselves and ourselves into better, moral people (this of course is getting into the fourth WoOW, Love).
Hope gives us both inspiration and direction. Hope is knowing that the sun will indeed rise even while we are in the midst of the darkest hours. The American Civil Rights process, South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid movement, Poland’s Solidarity – these were all envisioned, emboldened and sustained by the deep calls of hope. Hope against hope got young men and old women up day after day after bloody day and bludgeoned night after heart-breaking night to fight off the shackles of their enslavement, to believe that their battered and broken bodies were the ransom for their freedom and their children’s – and children’s children’s – freedom. Hope kept them from cracking like glass under the strain and giving up, resigning to the world’s typical predicaments – that, “What was will always be,” that, “It’s just the way it is, some things will never change.”
Yet, because of their courage – both buoyed and pressed forward by hope – the world is a slightly better place.
It will be hope that springs us forward and yet keeps us grounded in the hard, day-by-day task of ending child abduction and the sex trade, that will allow us to end all forms of slavery, that will allow nations like the US to welcome the immigrant without fear of losing its own identity worrying about its survival. It is hope that gives us the dream to change the way we live, change the way we eat, change the way treat each other (yes, from the same 2Pac song. What?). Hope will change our penal system to a rehabilitation one, our incarceration system to an education system. It is hope that will allow us to see the day when each person is treated with dignity, respect, and honor on the streets and in the boardrooms and throughout the systems of systems – regardless of their sex, sexual preference, color of skin, ethnicity, or religion. It will be hope that will allow us to see freedom, or at the least its borders.
Because we dream of a free, democratic Iran.
*Sarcasm is one of the WoOWs that I did discuss, previous to originally writing this post. However, that post is no longer up and I’m doing reconstructive surgery on a previous version of it. That’s taking a bit longer than I’d hoped. In the meantime, I thought that comparing hope to sarcasm would still make sense and not take a lot of contextual clues to get at. Unless…
No, just kidding.