Dear Friends and Family,
Will this pandemic never end?
Today is my birthday and every year (except last year) we’ve had Texas Sheet Cake and Eric’s Famous Eggnog for anyone who was around. Over the past 15 years we’ve had anywhere from three to thirty guests. This year I was looking forward to extending the invitation to the beloved communities I joined throughout this pandemic, but…Omicron.
To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “It’s been two years now and I’m starting to lose hope.”
But here’s the problem with hopelessness: It leads to helplessness and helplessness leads to inaction and inaction leads right back to hopelessness. It’s a vicious circle, but it can be broken if we take a leap into faith, a leap into hope.
According to Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama and author of Just Mercy, hope is an orientation of the spirit, a willingness to believe in things we haven’t seen:
I had to believe I could be a lawyer even though I'd never met a lawyer who looked like me. We had to believe that we could create an institution that could help people on death row, even though we hadn't seen that happen. We had to believe we could build a museum and a memorial in the heart of a pretty hostile space when it comes to racial justice. And yet we've achieved all of those things. And so, I think hopelessness is the enemy of justice. I think injustice prevails where hopelessness persists. And so, hope is our requirement, it's our superpower.
We are living in the fire swamp—to borrow from The Princess Bride again—and our three terrors are COVID, Climate Change and White Supremacy. I find myself wavering between Princess Buttercup’s pessimism, “We’ll never survive!” and Wesley’s optimism, “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” But what I really need is Bryan Stevenson’s hope:
It's not a pie in the sky hope, it's not a preference for optimism over pessimism. It's just an orientation of the spirit. I think we have to be willing to believe things we haven't seen. That's our superpower.
So, here I go, drawing my sword of hope against the three terrors of the fire swamp:
1. COVID will never go away, but I believe will learn how to survive and thrive despite it. I believe we will make masking and testing an everyday part of our life, in the same way we made seatbelts an everyday part of getting into a car. I believe we will require vaccinations for school and work, just like we did for polio and measles. We’ve already started. Some companies have given their employees a choice—vaccination or termination. At United Airlines, only 200 people out of 67,000 chose termination and now 100% of their customer facing employees are vaccinated.
2. Climate change is here and will never go away, but I believe we will learn how to stop it from getting worse. I believe we will embrace electric vehicles in the same way we embraced the personal computer. I believe we will require multinational businesses and countries to limit and clean up their plastics, chemicals, and climate changing waste and in California we’ve already started. The state and several counties have filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart for dumping 1 million batteries, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints and other hazardous waste into our air, our water, and our soil that results in cancer, neurological disorders, asthma, or learning disabilities.
3. White Supremacy is the law of the land, but I believe we will learn from our history and change our future. I believe we will face our institutions of slavery, indigenous boarding schools, internment camps, and immigration detention. I believe we will make reparations to the indigenous people, the descendants of enslaved people, and the wrongly detained/incarcerated people of this land. We are slowly beginning this process in California. Two years ago, the city council in Eureka, California returned 40 acres of Indian Island to the Wiyot Tribe who had lost the land in an 1860 massacre. More recently, the state is returning a $75 million beach front property to the descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce, a Black couple, who had owned the property from 1912 until the city took it from them in the 1920s.
Our sword is Hope. Hope is our requirement. Hope is our superpower.
Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and loved, most important, loved.