I remember in the early‘90’s – yes, I’m old enough to remember those days – hearing on the radio about free elections in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and throughout Eastern Europe, and how my heart filled with dizzying, unquenchable hope.
I’ll out myself now as a dyed-in-the-wool, flag-waving, anthem-singing patriot. I truly believe, deep down and unabashedly, that constitutional republicanism is the greatest system of government on the planet – the most likely to ensure personal rights, freedom, and dignity – and I cheer when I see another country heading in that direction. I am not a cultural relativist. I do not apologize. This is not about that. It’s about hope. You see, back in those heady days of the early ‘90’s, I believed we were on the brink of a new and Golden Age.
Here’s the thing about hope. Hope isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In mythology, Pandora unwisely allows all the evils of the world to fly out of a box because she couldn’t restrain her curiosity to have just one peek. She claps the lid closed, but then there’s a soft little voice that pleads, “Let me out, let me out.” She opens the lid one more time, and out flies the last thing the Olympian Gods had placed inside: hope.
Is hope a good thing? Camus says it isn’t; he says the worst thing of all came out last. That as bad as loneliness, sickness, and sin are, hope – that blistering, feverish, panting delusion that someday things will get better, that they will! – hope is the ingredient that makes mere misery into positive torment.
Egypt just had a revolution. Libya may be next. Tunisia? We’re looking at the possibility of democracy breaking out in the Mid East, and not because we tried perching it there with tanks and guns, but just because people got tired of putting up with the same old crap.
Lord forgive me, I fill with hope.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?