Since last summer I’ve been asked two questions with high frequency: 1) Is Trump the end of the GOP? 2) How do you stay hopeful watching all the terrible news? I answered the first question in The Outsider Perspective, Issue 2, which can be read here (remember to sign up!). I’m going to tackle the second question in this piece.
I understand why people ask about hope. The 2016 election cycle is one of the most unique elections in American history. The two leading candidates are the most hated politicians ever nominated to a major party. It’s not even close. They’re both pathological liars and corrupt to the core. The media, looking at the two candidates, has decided to go all in for the money. The pundit class is trotted out to carry their respective narratives. I get it, it looks bad out there.
I remain hopeful by reminding myself of three things.
First, watching the news is a recipe for depression. My very first column on this site talked about narrative cycles in the media. These cycles aren’t meant to change anyone’s mind or search for truth, they’re meant to get clicks and viewers. Americans like the outlandish. The news cycle is built to hook you into a narrative cycle. CNN’s ratings jump every time a major news story, like a plane crash, happens. Trump / Clinton has been one massive train wreck that gets yuuuuuuge ratings. In finding hope, don’t get sucked into a media/pundit spun narrative cycle. It’s a recipe for disaster and you’ll lose yourself focusing on each tree instead of seeing the forest. Pundits and media focus on specks in the eye while ignoring the logs.
Which brings me to my second point: America is more than a narrative cycle. America is built on the rule of law. Focusing on a narrative cycle is focusing on an individual tree in the forest of American people, ideas, and places. Whoever wins the November election is still constrained by the U.S. Constitution and the checks and balances set in place. Clinton and Trump will have to swear the same oath. They will be constrained by the same Constitution. Neither of them is capable of overthrowing the rule of law. There have been significant chips in our system, but it still stands. Until the Great Experiment is overthrown and done away with, it still controls.
The third point I remind myself is that America has survived far worse than the storm we are in now. The obvious examples here are the Civil War, WWII, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century. Each of those movements tested America in a unique way. We emerged each time stronger. If you recall, the 1920’s were known for their decadence and immorality. After the country was thrown into the Great Depression, our Greatest Generation emerged to fight WWII. We’ve risen to meet other challenges too, from the War of 1812, Assassination attempts on multiple Presidents, the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union, and the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A summary of these three points could simply be: perspective, history, and truth. If you have a truthful perspective and a long view of history, current events become minor bumps rather than mountains. If you’re a Christian, you have an extra area to rely upon: God is in charge. If you combine your faith the above perspective, the news seems far less dire. I do not want to understate the problems we are encountering. I only want to place them in perspective. Never believe all is lost.
Perspective, history, and faith give me the strength to continue to engage our culture. We should always push forward, engage, and present truth. Abraham Lincoln, in a 1856 speech said the following: “Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much.” The reason we have such a plethora of political pundits on TV is because the media understands itself as the gatekeeper of public opinion, not just a news. The only way to combat that problem is to keep hope and engage. The American Experiment is worth it and deserves our protection.
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Abraham Lincoln, 1862, Address to Congress.