Two recent “New York Times” op-eds

Two recent op-eds that ran in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times (both on December 14) got my attention. Not for the specificity of their subjects, and not because they provided me with any new revelations, but because both seemed to encapsulate what I’ve been saying to people for years now: stop tearing each other down to improve only your life, and find ways to cooperate for the betterment of all our lives!

The first, Brendan Nyhan’s “Our Unrealistic Hopes for Presidents”, gives a glimpse into our decades-old search for the messianic politician who will bring order out of chaos. Nyhan points out the unrealized desire for a uniting figure who can dispel dissent, who can bring us under one umbrella and find the means to answers our most difficult queries.

The other, Mark Bittman’s “Is It Bad Enough Yet?”, propounds the common-sense notion that we’re pushing each other too hard. Bittman hands us another bitter pill: our social problems are not isolated, but complex and interwoven. Economic inequality and racism and over-incarceration and police brutality and unemployment are all connected. And we’ve got to realize that before we can move forward, out of what seems to be a near-revolution.

We are our best hope. Looking at the political scene today, the irascible tendencies of the two parties, each struggling not for the nation’s good but to overpower the other, are driving their constituencies to more and more polarizing positions with venomous and demonizing rhetoric. I say, if the people who have chosen a “side” were to get their of their echo chambers for a moment – turn off Fox News, or log off the Huffington Post – and look at the scene from a distance, they would easily see that our many emphases on winning these thousand little wars are driving us to madness. Brinksmanship isn’t working because it never does . . .

One of the most beautiful lessons that I’ve learned from my Catholic faith is that light always overtakes darkness. Always. Never will you turn on a lamp in a dark room and have the darkness be so strong that the lamp can emit nothing. Never will the sun rise and the night remains, pushing the sun’s light back to its source. Even when the darkness is strongest and thickest, the faintest light will break it, if only just for a short space. In this nation, where we are realizing our darkness – political divisions, police brutality, economic inequality, the torture of political prisoners – and we need light! Emitting our own kind of darkness will never conquer the darkness we see and despise. It’s got to be light. I can’t be partisanship masked as light, nor empty promises that will get mired in legislative process— no, it’s got to true, honest, kind and loving light coming from the people themselves. We are our best hope.

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