By Victor D. Infante
Sometimes, I am so full of hope that it hurts. It burns inside my chest against all reason, restraining my impulse to build some bunker out in the woods away from humanity. Which is good, because I’d be useless hunting squirrels for sustenance.
Mostly, I’ve been doing a lot of listening, lately. The other night, I attended a discussion with author Roxane Gay, and while I was of course impressed by her brilliance and nuanced thinking on politics, racism and feminism, I was also impressed by the young people in the audience, many of them young persons of color, who were not only willing to express outrage about the state of the world, but to seek some sort of course of action.
Mind, writers – even ones as smart as Gay – are not oracles, and there were multiple occasions where she forced to conclude that she didn’t have an answer. Cancers that have spread throughout the body of a culture for centuries can’t be healed with one slice of a scalpel, no matter how sharp. But it’s important that people are looking for ways forward, even if there don’t appear to be any. It’s important that people are looking for options beyond despair and self-destruction.
Like I said, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening, and increasingly, I find young people have the most sensible things to say. Take the children of Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the shooting there mere weeks ago. In some ways, the media has made their narrative out to be rather one-dimensional, but I’m finding the dialogue on gun violence that they’re driving to be intelligent and nuanced. They even admit that they’re not all on the same page when it comes to solutions, but they handle their differences civilly and they’re coming to intersectionality a lot quicker than most adult liberals.
Just in one short span of time, listening to one group on NPR, another on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, and some of the speeches from the recent March For Life, it’s immediately clear that they’re aware that they’re processing pain, that they’re reaching for each other in their time of need despite differences, and they’re listening to one another, and those who have gone through what they’ve survived.
“We’re part of a family now that no one wants to be a part of,” said one young man on NPR the other day. I understand that, too. Considering my history, which I’ve expounded on at length in these pages, I see these children as my family, as are the people of color dead by police violence, as are the victims of terrorists, whether they be Islamic Jihadists, White Supremacists or whatever half-baked nonsense that puts a weapon in the hands of a broken man.
I don’t know where these kids came from, but they amaze me, like the Black Lives Matter activists and the Time’s Up activists amaze me, the way I find anyone who hasn’t been beaten down yet by the world remarkable. The fact that there are still people out there willing to fight is enough to stoke an ember in this tired heart. They’re worth listening to, all of them, and hopefully they keep reaching for one another. I think they will. I think that they’ve figured out that you can’t build a better world unless it’s better for all of us.