“Doomed”

January 16th, 2017

The other day I had a discussion with a Twitter acquaintance who’s of the opinion that the United States—and especially any progressive agenda within it—is doomed.

Though I wasn’t able to shake his pessimism, his take on this is wrong, for at least two reasons:

  1. Mordor, this ain’t. (Compare current conditions to the picture above.) Not to make light of the political situation or the cruel steps being taken by the President-Elect and the majority in Congress, and not being any kind of a Pollyanna, but: have some perspective.
  2. Even if it were Mordor . . . that’s not the way to think about it, for important psychological reasons.

Cynicism tends to breed doubt and inaction. After all, if we really are doomed, then why even try?

Realism tinged with an optimistic openness to good things that might happen if we try—which is another way of invoking the Stockdale Paradox—is the right approach.

Yes, things are bad. Bad enough that we can’t sit back and wait for them to get better, or take for granted even those cherished institutions and norms that seemed the most entrenched up to now. (Can you even imagine Eisenhower, Reagan, or Obama shouting down a reporter at a press conference? It’s sickening.)

But also . . . there are things we can do. There are. There ARE.

My Twitter interlocutor said something about holding out for Michelle in 2020, by which I take it to mean that he hopes Michelle Obama will run for the Democratic nomination then. As much as I respect Mrs. Obama, my friend’s wish should hardly be the centerpiece of anyone’s approach, because it relies on a singular political savior (long odds on that) and puts off the next inflection point for action by four years.

It seems fitting to be thinking about this on the day we choose to commemorate Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. There’s a reason he titled his 1963 book Why We Can’t Wait.

And remember, those of you who are fantasy buffs, that it was within the bowels of Mt. Doom itself that Frodo destroyed the One Ring.

If we have reached Mordor, so be it. Let’s continue the work.

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