This year has taken a toll on my psyche, and I’ve been feeling exceptionally down in the past few weeks. I pretty much want to throw in the towel on humanity. My dear city of Baltimore is a giant mess and on track to have the highest number of homicides it has ever had. Three seems to be another mass shooting every other day. Add to that the atrocities going on around the world in Syria and many other places and I feel like we should just toss the whole world into the sun.
I have no confidence that anything can be done about any of it. It all seems like a lot of people shouting past each other. I watch all the yahoos we have running for president and that doesn’t give me any hope for a better world. I’m a registered Democrat so I have no say in which of the Republican clowns gets the nomination, but I am not any more enamored with any of my Democratic choices either. Throw in the giant clown car that is Congress and I have very little hope that anything productive can be accomplished.
At work yesterday I was putting some closed captioning on an lecture David Simon gave at one of the universities I work for a number of years ago shortly before the final season of The Wire aired. I remember attending that lecture and thinking man David Simon is the most cynical person on the face of this planet. In revisiting what he said I realize I am sadly right there with him these days. However, at the end of the lecture during the Q&A period someone got up and said I don’t want to let you leave these bright, young college students thinking that there is no hope because things can change. It may take generations and we may not even realize it while it’s happening, but they can and do change for the better sometimes. That guy was right.
I feel like I’m the worst sort of human being because I do feel acutely on behalf of the poor and marginalized. Social justice issues are something that are of great interest to me, but aside from throwing some money at some causes I don’t ever do anything about it. Part of it is what feels like a learned helplessness in that I just don’t feel like anything can get better. It’s also that I have social anxiety to some degree and a more significant anxiety about entering into foreign situations. It’s very difficult to do any meaningful work towards social justice without interacting with people you don’t know or putting yourself into unfamiliar situations, so I don’t. I let that be an excuse. There is a passage in the Bible that says the worst thing is to be lukewarm and I get that and feel like that’s what I am. I’m not cold or indifferent to the problems. I feel them to my bones and yet I do nothing. That seems worse than not even knowing or acknowledging that they’re there.
All of this is leading up to say that unlike me I know that there are people out there fighting to right the wrongs of this world, and I want to raise my glass to them. Without people who were willing to stand up for injustices that seemed like they could never be changed we would still have slavery. Women still wouldn’t be able to vote, and on and on. Sometimes it feels like we’re moving backwards instead of forwards, but there are still people out there fighting every day to make changes no matter how incremental to help create a better world. Some of them like Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King rise to prominence historically and others have fought and will fight unrecognized for the work that they do. To every person who rises up and fights for a better tomorrow I thank you. I hope that one day I can muster the will and energy and stop putting my own selfishness and insecurities first in order to join you.