no excuse

So, for a day, the world let itself hope.

Some of the world that is.  All who have bought into the reassertion of the American Dream, or the symbolic power of a black president (though no one complains that in the States, one black parent and one white parent still means ‘black’), or the relief that perhaps the disastrous political regime of the past eight years is ending.

There has been a lot of thoughtful commentary, and I wish neither to summarize it nor to remark on it, save for one thing.  Yesterday, I found myself listening to a call in show on Five-Live:  ‘did America make the right choice’.  One man, in explaining his ‘yes’ said that as of today there were no more excuses:  no black child, no black teenager could ever again claim that they were stopped by the colour of their skin.

That is a good thing.

But if it is true, that means that right now,  there are a whole lot of people who might be both angry and afraid that their excuses are gone; people who for years have told themselves:  ‘I can’t; no one will let me’ and now they have to face that that might not be true.

Please understand:  the circumstances mean we are imagining a certain group of disaffected people who happen to be black.  But the reality is greater.  Lots of us find excuses for not trying, not hoping, not choosing our path in life.

Yesterday, we opened the door on hope.   Like the person who has just discovered a relationship with God, we let ourselves imagine new possibilities for the future: a vision of life not determined by the past.  It is a wonderful feeling, but hard to sustain.  Once the euphoria wears off we are left in a void.  On one side are the old-ways that we may want to let go of, but are familiar and instinctual.  On the other side, there’s a glimmer of something we can’t grasp and a path that turns quickly out of sight.

The way of hope is surrounded by a thousand sirens calling out reasons for our failure: a thousand excuses we can give ourselves as we feel the lure of old-habits that get us nowhere, but offer the comfort of familiarity.

Hope  keeps disturbing us with the question:  what will you choose today?

4 thoughts on “no excuse

  1. “No one complains” isn’t *quite* true, although it is more true than it ought to be.

    Unfortunately, while there is now a much wider vision available for children of color, a new hope, there is also a systemic reality to be faced. “No excuses” doesn’t take into account inequities into which children are still born simply because their parents and grandparents didn’t have what mine did as white people.

    Someone who is born into a house full of books because their family has always been educated, whose parents have always had (and therefore can teach) hope, whose neighborhood friends assume they will not be looked at carefully when walking into a store, who can expect to be taken seriously – this person is just going to have a whole different starting line.

    If you add onto it, say, the fact that my parents knew how to help me apply to college, had time to take me to museums, made me learn “manners” in various settings, and saw to it that I wore the kind of clothing in which employers would take me seriously, well, let’s just say I was privileged, even without much money.

    Never mind the few bigots that are still hanging around…

    My hope is that this new vision will be enough to help open up dreams and motivation for a whole new generation. What I hope will also happen is that those who are able can then enable others on a practical level to reach for those new dreams.

    * * * * *

    All that said, I can also resonate for myself with what you’ve said about choosing to hope rather than fear, to step out instead of giving up and to put down old excuses and step up to the plate. Thank you for giving me something to meditate on.

  2. Sarah, you are right, of course.

    I was trying to focus on the willingness to hope, and was careless if I implied that there was a level playing field when there so very clearly isn’t.

    It’s one of the ironies of America: if a child finds a way to believe in themselves, and an adult or two who will help them, there really are ways out of the(real and metaphorical) ghettos. But finding that hope and that person is much harder in some neighbourhoods than in others.

  3. A very thoughtful post! Your image of the void is very apt, I think. What frees us from our old habits is the ability to visualize the alternatives, or to fill that void. Absent that, it’s tremendously difficult to abandon the familiar but unsatisfactory path, as that requires a capacity for risk (or zest for life) that most (myself included) do not possess.

  4. I can think of several times when you’ve done that, Werner… and I still dream of your throwing it all in for music one day.

    Thanks for joining in. Another of our old friends who sometimes reads usually shies away from comments because there is just too much God talk here.

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