The path to hope is fraught with peril, a path I’ve already advised we dare not tread. Hope is the antithesis of my personal credo: expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.
And yet, against better judgment, I cannot keep from hearing the people who talk about the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and say he just might win. They say Donald Trump — the Marmalade Messiah — is down in the polls and that his message of bigotry no longer resonates in a New America that, for the first time in more than 240 years, seems suddenly sensitized to its volatile history of racial injustice.
Alas, for a minute there I felt hopeful, and that has made me sad.
Hope, I remind myself, leads to complacency, which we absolutely cannot afford. Hope can lead to other things, too, like the thought it kindled about a different word: forgiveness.
If all I could look forward to was four more years of Donald Trump, would I now be thinking that finally I might be able to forgive those people who, four years ago, insisted it was I who should seek their forgiveness for shunning them over their support for an openly racist president?
Aside from awkwardly constructed sentences, hope also causes contradicted feelings.
Witness the article I wrote back on May 31, 2019. I was without hope when I wrote that the statute of limitations had run out for Trumpers; that there could be no forgiveness for people who supported the outrages we’ve seen over the last three and a half years.
I was tough then, unyielding. The tiniest drop of hope has made me soft.
As justification for my wavering, I ask myself if we can go forward with no kind of plan. If Biden were to win this election, one of his mandates will surely be to heal the country — no small order for a nation riven by Trump. How can we expect Biden to carry out this healing if we, as individuals, are unwilling to change our tune and make nice with the people who saw brown children being thrown into cages, then pronounced it good?
Searching for guidance, I looked to the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, where 185 people were indicted but only 12 received death sentences; 8 were given life in prison; and an additional 77 received prison terms of varying length. Doing the math, that means 88 Nazis and Nazi sympathizers got off more or less scot-free.
Is that what forgiveness looks like?
Under a Biden presidency, the Nuremberg example would seem to grant some leeway in my personal prosecution of Trumpers and Trump sympathizers, who I define as those who didn’t think a presidential candidate who called Mexicans “rapists” was enough motivation to bother getting off the couch to vote for the other guy, who just happened to be a woman.
Ideally, those people would be asking for my forgiveness, which would be quite the turnaround. And in keeping with the national interest, I might actually grant forgiveness if it were asked, perhaps after a suitable period of parole.
And if the shoe is on the other foot . . . if the unthinkable happens and Trump cheats his way to another four years of racist rule and continued dismantling of our democracy, what then? Well, as I’m frog-marched off to the gulag, you can bet I won’t be asking forgiveness for my steady opposition to Trump.
How sad to be thinking about forgiveness, but only in theoretical terms as a consequence of victory or defeat. I think it’s a lot more sad than not thinking about it at all.
Chalk it up as one more pitfall along the pathway to hope. Be careful that you don’t fall in.