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Hope & Oppression 

Triumph Over Hopelessness

The word hope is tossed around like Halloween candy corn. For those of us who have lost hope, its sickening sweet flavor and bright colors are repugnant. We may want to believe that the injustices of oppression can be lifted from our communities and from our nation. But most of us, who are honest with ourselves know we are stricken with hopelessness -- that the death of our ideals were buried in the vast children's cemetery with billions of others. Despite the vast changes brought about positive thinking and spiritual exercises, our best thinking still falls prey to the oppressor's propaganda; "nothing will ever change." Those words haunt us relentlessly.

All of us carry around patterns of thought riddled with hopelessness. "A black man could never be elected President in the United States of America." We have all heard statements like that.  And despite our programmed despondency, many of us are dedicated to the work of ending oppression, we're willing to do it, we recognize its importance.  We can fabricate hope, particularly the outward appearance of hope for others. We advocate action and agree that we should stand up for our convictions. Nonetheless, underneath our tough veneer, we don't feel hopeful about making a difference. If there's any reflection of real hope, it is hoping that someone else will do it, hoping for the next generation; yet we abandon the hope for ourselves. We resign ourselves to the best we can do, which is often another way of telling ourselves: "I can't make a difference." And, without believing that we can free ourselves from our oppressors, we simply try to survive our feelings of defeat.

Grudgingly, we push ourselves to move ahead despite our feelings, because we have been conditioned to function without hope for so long that it doesn't matter. Some of us play at being hopeful, we consider the prospect of hope, but we cannot actually be hopeful. Perseverance eludes us. We often settle back and rationalize: "let someone else carry the ball, for a change."

This real culprit is our patterns of hopelessness. We do not feel that we can succeed. This becomes a self-fulfilling pattern reflected by the world around us. We hope a leader will arise. We hope that others will dare to make the dreaded sacrifices. We hope that unselfishness will overcome greed, that honesty will overcome deceit, that sincerity will overcome hypocrisy, and that love will overcome hate. Yet, we know that our hope is only a remote prospect to consider. Knowing that we are slaves to our own hopelessness, what can we do?
Admission is the first step to reclaiming hope. The lack of hope is our greatest enemy! How often have we heard someone say, " I lost hope"  To lose hope, means that we once had it. Even though we may not remember that time, it is true. We once had it.  There was a time somewhere in our lives, when we were endowed with this great force that permitted us to move ahead without reservation.    
As infants, hopelessness did not impede our challenge at mastering the tools we needed to acquire in order to function in the world. We learned language and practiced it with persistence; first uttering meaningless sounds before articulating our first words to communicate with the world around us. When we failed and grew frustrated, we cried and screamed; our tears washed away the past and in minutes, we were ready again to move ahead. There was no hopelessness in our lives. We spoke. Our voices were heard.  Imagine how that would be now. Imagine living without even the slightest thought that our efforts could be fruitless. It is that kind of hope that can change the world. It is that kind of hope that can transform our fear into courage, failure into triumph, and dreams into realities.
After we admit that we have lost hope and that we need to reclaim it, we must practice being hopeful. When we imagine what that would be like for ourselves, for others, for those we love, the prospect of hope can become a burning desire. 
Finally, we must dare ourselves - no matter how much it frightens us, no matter how much we recoil from it; we must dare ourselves to believe that we have begun the process of overcoming oppression. Before the world changes it is up to us and no one else to meet our own personal demon. Within ourselves there is this unholy enemy that calls to us, "you cannot make a difference." What if today we declare war on our personal demon? What if we wake up every morning and commit ourselves to these simple words; "today I will make a difference and nothing can stop me."  For every one of us who reclaims their lost hope, the power of change becomes more than just a remote dream. It will, in fact, become a living reality. Oppression, racism, and bigotry are formidable foes, only because they reside within us. We have learned them and have learned how to oppress others and ourselves. By expelling this force of darkness within ourselves, we can join with others to change the world.  We can exhume the graves where we buried hope and the spirit of our indomitable childhoods will live again.


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