Hope springs eternal

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

If it were not for hope, the heart would break.
~ Greek aphorism

The first 23 days of our New Year have been rather pleasant, with the exception of more than our share of rainy days, with the exception of having had two doctor’s appointments already, three early morning meetings, with the exception of cutting the knuckle just below the fingernail on my right hand almost to the bone (not related to the doctor visits), and with the exception of the fact that a United States government shutdown is now in its 33rd day! This exception more than anything else has caused such excitement among the players in The Capitol, aided and abetted by a media poised and slavering for the next juicy bite of scandal, real or contrived, that “we the people” have become so mired in confusion by their conflicting tales, that we have no idea what or whom to believe.
The vitriol from mainstream media recently (which lasted for over 20 hours) when a shabby online outfit noted for playing hard and loose with the truth published another false report was sickening. Listening to sound bites and “talking points” from spokespersons from all major networks promising disgrace, Impeachment! Or Conviction! Was disgusting. It was increasingly embarrassing as it became obvious that once again they were not interested in waiting on the truth. Pathetic.
Headlines of relentless assault from journalists who have “distinguished’ themselves by wanting so badly to “get” someone, anyone in this administration, have caused them to make a mockery of their credentials. Regardless of our political leanings, can we not hope, no, demand more veracity from the Fifth Estate?
I certainly do not blame the press entirely for the miasma our country is wallowing in these days. Unfortunately, those we elected to work hard (be present!), work together, and labor to keep our country’s citizenry safe and gainfully employed have fallen prey to arrogance and pride, quickly caught up in the “Game of Thrones” playing out in all three branches of our government, a government “of, by and for the people.”
When did we stop believing in the plans and rules laid out by our forefathers, for centuries greatly admired by others because the Constitution and Bill of Rights worked? When did we stop believing that success and happiness was never guaranteed, only the right to freely “pursue” those ideals? And when did we forget that our “borders’ have never, never been Open, have never been without “walls” and guards and inspectors to insure that those struggling (yes, even desperate) to enter were carefully screened—questioned, examined, and often quarantined—necessarily separated from their families until decisions concerning their status, intent and especially their health was determined. In many cases, it was the health of an individual that meant they would be turned away, along with their family. Even under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and its beautiful but unrealistic call for the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses,” hundreds and even thousands of immigrants were turned away from our shores, their hopes of a better life dashed. Tragic, yes, but given the crowded squalor of many of the cities, of summers where cholera and typhoid took high tolls, given the sad state of families left without mothers or fathers who died of tuberculosis, given these very real possibilities, entry was granted only to the well and able. To those able to work in low paid, dirty and dangerous jobs. For that has always been the primary role of the immigrant—to fill the need for coal miners, dynamite handlers, factory and mill workers, driving stakes and laying rail for a transcontinental system linking this great nation from “sea to shining sea.” Today it is the same: day laborers, dish washers, gardeners, trash sorters, field hands, and chicken plant workers are some of our least desirable jobs and we want immigrants—illegal if that is all we can get, to do the hard and grungy work.
History makes clear that there were and still are always those there to take advantage of people less educated, less well-placed in society, illiterate, more vulnerable. No, “yellow journalism” is not new. Neither is corruption, lying, cheating, or stealing from those who have placed a sacred trust in others smarter or better educated or just more clever. “We’ve been duped!” is a refrain that echoes in the hearts, minds, and memories of millions over the decades of shoddy treatment by those elected to serve and uphold our laws. City, County, State, Nation. I am so disappointed in so many of today’s civil servants, but in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” We must never lose “infinite hope.”
Our senators and congressmen were supposed to be regular, well-read, and well-versed, intelligent citizens who would leave their farms, shops, law offices, and other enterprises in order to go to Washington to serve, to be a strong voice for their neighbors; but only for a couple of years, then they would return to what they knew and loved. Congress was not a Job. The Senate was not a Career. They were not intended to create a new ruling class in America, building little empires, founding dynasties, making deals behind closed doors, selling favors. Refusing to compromise. To negotiate. To serve.

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