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Optimism

March 3, 2006
By Joseph Hughes

With so much wrong with the state of American affairs, it's easy to lose your optimism. The Bush administration has been responsible for so much failure, corruption and division that unhealthy levels of pessimism are practically unavoidable.

A quick glance at what has happened under President Bush - Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, spying on Americans, a more right-wing Supreme Court, putting politics and business above national security - reveals myriad reasons to lose hope, to despair for the future. But, if you think about it, there are as many - if not more - reasons to be hopeful for what's to come.

That hope, that optimism, is what I think draws people to the Democratic Party. And it's that optimism that can and will help shape a better future.

Perhaps the most common misinterpretation Republicans make is that we Democrats are nothing more than a frothing, angry bunch with little more guiding us than a seething hatred for their party and their president. This, of course, is the frame by which they attempt to marginalize liberals and dismiss us as emotionally unstable. And this, of course, couldn't be further from the truth.

If anything, the anger they perceive from Democrats is nothing more than our frustration at seeing how they've so hurt our once-great nation. Democrats know what wonderful, important contributions Americans can make if properly motivated. We're just ready for hope - not fear - to be our guiding principle. For "What if? - not "What happened?" - to be our next national question.

Think of what great things this country could have done following September 11 if only our president asked us. He could have helped end the very addiction to oil he still bemoans and still perpetuates. He could have asked scientists to find a new way. He could have asked Americans to conserve, to use alternative fuels, to be a part of the solution. But he didn't. Instead, he capitalized on a tragedy to pursue goals that have left America worse than when he took office.

Imagine the impact we could have made following Hurricane Katrina if only our president led instead of abandoned? We could have had a much-needed dialogue about the state of race and class in our society. We could have lifted the Gulf Coast from the ruins and improved the lives of the victims as well. We could have left survivors a home not only better than before, but also the envy of the world. But we didn't. Instead, we watched as this administration left millions of Americans behind, dragged its feet and sold the region to its corporate interests.

Picture the strides this president could have taken in America if only he weren't involved in a costly war in Iraq. He could have lifted millions of Americans out of poverty. He could have put millions more to work. He could have put the considerable amount we've spent and are spending on this war to better use at home, where it's needed most. But he didn't. Instead, he's wasted countless resources and far too many lives in a struggle that will no doubt soon evolve into a violent civil war.

It doesn't have to be like this. While the deck may appear to be stacked against us, the opposite is often the case. We have the power to make our ideas a reality. Look at the numerous examples of the Democratic agenda being put into practice across America at the state and local levels. There, you'll see optimistic individuals working to achieve ambitious goals. There, governing and helping people aren't mutually exclusive ideas.

Optimism helped America during its infancy. Optimism helped form the system of government we still use today. Optimism helped fight slavery. Optimism helped give women and African Americans the right to vote. Optimism helped bring about the New Deal. Optimism helped fight institutionalized racism. Optimism helped lift up the poor, the sick, the elderly. Optimism built this country. And optimism will save it.

One thing I am not optimistic about, however, is the Republican Party's ability to solve our problems.

Joseph Hughes is a graphic designer and writer by day and a liberal blogger by night. Read stories like this and many more at his blog, Hughes for America.

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