26 December 2017

Resolved: Anticipating 2018

If time and experience have taught us anything over the years, it is that our history, like our road to progress and change, is cyclical. 2017 was a year that saw that cycle, for many, spiral either out of control or toward a perpetual sense of dread and despair. For some, the countdown for the new year began as early as January, and hope for the future became a dwindling notion that it must be better simply because it "can't get worse."

Perhaps the number one takeaway from 2017 is that, as we frequently see in art, what's old has become new again. Yet unlike the Arts--where new breath pushed through old, familiar lungs is applauded in the vein of Ezra Pound's maxim to "make it new"--the social, cultural, and political spheres in which we have seen old battles fought new has been met not with delight but with despair. We seem to have buckled under the weight of both history and progress, like pilgrims stumbling an unpaved path we no longer believe culminates on holy ground. What we've seen, some would argue, is not progress but swift and heart-wrenching recession back to old battlegrounds, wars we thought were won now undone, wounds we thought healed laid bare and bleeding as the year crawls to what may be a bitter end.

But I revolt against these notions ... and I believe you should, too.

Instead, let us embrace the art of going back, reclaiming old ground, and stumble, yes, but still progress into the new year. Where we cling to the hope that the old can be made new again in the brightest and most promising of ways, let's not forget that to create the new we must, yes, face and embrace and endure the old. In anticipation of the future's promise, let's not forget the lessons of history: namely, that throughout our war-torn ages we have, once and again, over and over, wrenched hope and progress from the iron fist of pain and defeat.

In the founding of our nation, from the very dawn of American democracy, the Founding Fathers wrote conflict into the threads of who we would become. It is not for nothing that American democracy, the very framework of our Constitution and national identity, was formulated on a foundation of experimentation and debate. Our country was founded on conflicting ideas, with hard won consensus and eventual progress scratched from battlegrounds painted in blood and ink. That "all men are created equal" is a notion fought over and over through time--laying it as the bedrock of what we believe was, in fact, a challenge for all time, a lemniscate battleground. And to some that is a hopeless notion. But time, and battle, and the infinite war for change, is also a waltz, a dance to take us from one point to another through time, even if time and again it means stepping over the same patch of progress.

As we anticipate the new year, its promise and its troubles, let us take a moment to reflect on the fact that the heroes of today were the rabble raisers of yesteryear. That at one time those who look on the rising generations with disdain were the disdained. That those who we honor for their protestations and social rebellions today were often shunned, scorned, and promised no place in history in their own time. That we cannot see our own place in history through the lens of today, or even the lens of tomorrow... but the eyes of a thousand tomorrows may judge us more kindly than the eyes of a thousand yesterdays.

I have hope for the new year. I hope you do, too.

I hope that, as we enter a new day, and turn the leaves to a new page in American history, we remember the enduring need for protest ... that each new day and year is a battle, and each battle only a sample of the war. I hope we recognize that victory may rest in the hands of an infant who will look back on our struggles of today and see what change may come.

I hope that as we fight for what is right, we won't forget that the sands of time may shift against us now, but though the landscape of the desert may change no desert hides its secrets forever.

I hope that as we face each political and social and spiritual and cultural race, toward each finish line that is in its own way only the starting point of the next long sprint toward what we hope for, we each stay in it for the long run. I hope that every social movement of the coming year is seen as just that ... movement, a commitment to keep fighting, to hope, to push against that wall long enough to form a chink that will, someday--and maybe not a day of our own lifetime but someday all the same--lead to that wall's crumbling demise. I hope that in the coming year we all keep on keeping on, and on, and on, for each new dawn, and each new darkness that steals the light, and each new day that casts out the darkness...

And for this promise I do more than hope. I resolve.

*****

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