Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Remembering hope

Nearly every week in my job as a public health research specialist, I knock on the doors of 14 randomly selected households around Wisconsin and meet the people who open them.

About half of them invite me in and answer the questions I ask them about their health, their work, their environment. After 90 minutes of structured survey and a few minutes of ordinary conversation, I have a pretty good sense of the shape of their lives, of some of their hopes and fears, of who they are.

And this is the only reason I'm able to avoid being terrified about what this election season might bring.

The political ads make me furious, almost across the board, for their raw attempts to appeal to the lowest part of us.

I hear politicians promise things they can't deliver and wonder why people believe them.

One in a state level election says he'll create jobs, at the same time he says he'll get rid of jobs in education and government.

I hear "grizzly moms," fierce in protecting their own children, turning a blind eye on everyone else's children.

I see people mocking a candidate for ordinary curiosity in her past while ignoring her present lack of qualificiations for the job.

I hear businessmen saying they'll be able to get the job done, apparently unaware that congress is a democratic organization, and they don't get to issue orders and expect them fulfilled.

And I see people wanting to throw the bums out being willing to throw out the one senator who really is a maverick.

Eli Zaretsky, a professor of history at Eugene Lang College, says that we have lost hope, and that's the cause of the present political climate. It's ironic that the candidate who campaigned on hope, President Obama, is now the president of hopelessness.

What we hoped for when we elected him was change from the politics that had gone before, and that inspired us. But the change we got wasn't enough.

Zaretsky says that we're not depressed because times are hard. We're depressed because we can't imagine a better future right now.
Obstacles do not destroy hope; on the contrary, obstacles inspire hope. Hope is destroyed when it is disappointed at a deeper level than the mere obstacle. Hope rests on trust, the primal basis of the social bond, ultimately derived from the parent/child relationship. When you trust, and the trust does not seem warranted, that destroys hope.

But in meeting Wisconsin's people, I see so much good, so much that is solid and enduring, that I have hope.

What people do at the polls is not a measure of who they are, but of what they fear or what they hope for.

After the election, we'll go back to work. And maybe hope will rise again. Too bad it seems to take making things worse to make that happen.


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