So, for a day, the world let itself hope.
Some of the world that is. All who have bought into the reassertion of the American Dream, or the symbolic power of a black president (though no one complains that in the States, one black parent and one white parent still means ‘black’), or the relief that perhaps the disastrous political regime of the past eight years is ending.
There has been a lot of thoughtful commentary, and I wish neither to summarize it nor to remark on it, save for one thing. Yesterday, I found myself listening to a call in show on Five-Live: ‘did America make the right choice’. One man, in explaining his ‘yes’ said that as of today there were no more excuses: no black child, no black teenager could ever again claim that they were stopped by the colour of their skin.
That is a good thing.
But if it is true, that means that right now, there are a whole lot of people who might be both angry and afraid that their excuses are gone; people who for years have told themselves: ‘I can’t; no one will let me’ and now they have to face that that might not be true.
Please understand: the circumstances mean we are imagining a certain group of disaffected people who happen to be black. But the reality is greater. Lots of us find excuses for not trying, not hoping, not choosing our path in life.
Yesterday, we opened the door on hope. Like the person who has just discovered a relationship with God, we let ourselves imagine new possibilities for the future: a vision of life not determined by the past. It is a wonderful feeling, but hard to sustain. Once the euphoria wears off we are left in a void. On one side are the old-ways that we may want to let go of, but are familiar and instinctual. On the other side, there’s a glimmer of something we can’t grasp and a path that turns quickly out of sight.
The way of hope is surrounded by a thousand sirens calling out reasons for our failure: a thousand excuses we can give ourselves as we feel the lure of old-habits that get us nowhere, but offer the comfort of familiarity.
Hope keeps disturbing us with the question: what will you choose today?