A long time ago in a film called The Big Chill, a screenwriter opined through the voice of a character preaching in a church.   The preaching was about a man named Alex, and all Alex’s friends had come to see him off. Alex committed suicide. The preacher asked the assembled friends, and remaining congregation: “Where did Alex’s hope go?”

The hope America possesses has been demonstrated in the last 15 months of America’s history. There has been a huge amount of rhetoric, but not much real change. Oh, the tax bill is a looming disaster, but for the future. And the new budget is a looming mess, but also for the future. For right now, though, we are getting through. Trump has not pushed the nuclear button or caused anybody else to. That’s great news. Trump talks, lies and acts like a child, but somehow, even this scabbed over a bunch of boiled lobsters we have for representatives and senators, have buttressed things up behind the scenes. Take Trump’s Chief of Staff. He’s doing his damnedest to save America, and will probably be lucky to keep his military retirement, much less get any thanks from a heavy breathing and much-winded nation. Can Trump be used as an example of how we should not, as a country, allow that kind of thing to happen again? The country needs to go back to being about the country, and not that one person, plus a few other outrageous, near Hollywood quality, characters. I want some peace from this unending worry every time I turn on that set. Now there is hope, because there are a lot of us, like most of you and me. All of us who live in the USA want the country to survive, and to have it do well.  The combined public, irrespective of politics or religion, want kindness and strength at the same time. We want compassion, but with respect and honor.

Donald Trump did not take anyone’s hope.   He’s done a lot of things, but that is not one of them. Hope is something that should be at the very core of each one of us. It is a wish for things to get even better, no matter what the circumstance, that propels us during every day to get up to work and play. None of us is doing this alone. The human condition is not that of a solitary orangutan’s living up at the top of triple canopy jungle trees in Borneo. We are all hooked together, and it is this special social nature that has allowed and will continue to allow, us all to advance what we define civilization to be.

But where the ‘rubber hits the road’ isn’t something we are going to experience from watching nationally televised presentations of what is real, or fake or any other kind of news. No, the rubber hits the road at home. Locally. Where we are living and working right now.

That struggle, of working, of playing (many times), and even of living, has to be reflective of the interlace we have braided into our social fabric right in our own neighborhood, and in our towns and cities across all of America. Who is leading, and who is following, and why it is all okay to be the way it is. In disagreement we often bind together, many times bitterly, to accomplish the same goals even if seen from totally different and emotionally charged perspectives. My ‘better’ is not necessarily my neighbor’s better.   Who is being affected and how? These are local decisions, not national ones. And, it is the local decisions of displaying our own conduct, after reflection, that determine just how we are all going to get along in the future. And get along we must. It is quite okay to disagree with, dislike and even hate the country’s national leaders. But it’s not helpful to the social structure we are building and maintaining to hate the people who disagree with your own emotional responses about that leader.

The same is true at home. Many times the bifurcated sets of powers that drive local politics (money and the lack of it, development as opposed to open space, governmental power and expressed religious beliefs) create dynamic tensions that can tear the whole community apart unless they are viewed with a willing moderation driven by an understanding that the part is, indeed, not more important than the whole, but that the whole must respect the part that helped allow it to be what it is.

There is hope at the very foundation of the people running the nation, and there’s hope in the parts that have given rise to that whole, willingly or not. There is the same hope on the local level, taken down to a smaller but equally important level. The leader is not alone. The leader is never alone.

This is the human race, not some solitary distance marathon. Moderation is the most powerful force driving the continued rise of civilization.   It is the application of moderation that is so vital on both the national and the local level. Go out and exercise it.

~~James Strauss

Image by street artist, Banksy

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