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When Hope is Hard
Today I saw a tweet from Jennine, a Palestinian woman, that said it all, “No time to mourn no time to grieve, the occupation turning every Gazan into a reporter, documenting their last moments, the decimation of everything they lived and cherished, for the world’s idle, cruel, distant, curiosity.” It is hard to have anything remotely akin to hope now. Yesterday the world saw Israel murder the family of Palestinian journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh, watched as he rushed to the hospital, saw a pain that is beyond comprehension on his face, and heard him say he will keep showing the world what is happening in Gaza. Then, just an hour or two later, we saw the President of the United States say verbatim, "I have no notion if Palestinians are telling the truth." Biden implied that the health agency in Gaza might not be reliable, despite his own administration using them last year, and everyone from journalists to the Human Rights Campaign saying they’ve historically been accurate. It’s hard to have hope.
Then a mass shooting interrupted the blanket coverage of ethnic cleansing. It feels hard to even type these words, but at least 16 people in Lewiston, Maine are dead. At least 60 are injured. Possibly more. The search for the shooter, Robert Card, is still ongoing. Amid the hectic and often unreliable social media reporting on this killing spree, journalists found Card’s own Twitter and Facebook accounts, which show his support for Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump Jr., and other right-wing figures. I don’t want to speculate any further, but his political leanings are clear, and frightening. It’s hard to have hope.
There is a desire, an impulse in me to reach for Mariame Kaba’s saying “Hope is a discipline” right here. And it is a discipline. I will refuse to abandon hope in a better world for as long as I live, because I struggle to see a life worth living without that hope, or faith. I see Palestinians, Muslims, and others around the world leaning on faith right now because little else can provide the needed light in this dark moment. And I have a sort of faith myself. But it doesn’t feel as easy as relying on the hope I had yesterday anymore. Today I have to fall back on a colder and harsher hope, a faith that people will do what it takes to survive.
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That phrase “do what it takes to survive” is most often used to talk about people being willing to kill or harm or do brutal things to live another day in a difficult situation, in a war zone, in a fight or flight moment. But what I mean is that I choose to believe we will collectively learn how to adapt, how to grow, how to change in order to ensure our survival. Fundamentally we are group creatures. Our survival and destruction are reliant on our groups, and today on massive international systems and structures, not just on individuals. The entire “survival of the fittest” idea was initially applied and understood on an individual basis, but more recent work makes it clear that our species lives and dies on the strength of our groups. And today we are more interconnected and more interdependent than ever.
So I have a cold, calculated hope that we will learn to survive together because we don’t want to die separately. I know this won’t happen overnight, and day by day the world makes clear that this might not happen before a lot more pain and suffering and death. But every tragedy, every horrific event leads more people to see that radical and transformative change is necessary. Millions of us are gripped by despair in this moment, but millions are being radicalized in and through their despair as well. And while moderates are prone to say “Don’t make this political” that laughable concept holds absolutely no weight in the midst of an ethnic cleansing, an inherently political tragedy sprung out of a colonial, political project. We must be politicized. We must be political actors. We must learn and act as agents with the political agenda of halting a genocide.
And people are doing that. People are taking political action, together. People are shutting down weapons plants. In England this morning union members blocked the entrance to an Israeli arms factory with a banner reading “Workers for a Free Palestine.” People are occupying Congressional buildings and refusing to leave until politicians agree to co-sponsor a ceasefire. Students are walking out en masse across the U.S. and around the world. A wave of protests bigger than anything we’ve seen since 2020 is flooding the streets. And, most importantly, people are organizing. These actions are not simply spontaneous. We’re past the initial round of social media driven eruptions. What you see is people locking themselves to buildings and refusing to leave Senate offices and spray painting the factories that produce weapons of death is a coordinated effort. More and more people are linking up with organizations, they’re laying the foundations for a long-term, powerful movement against the Zionist occupation, and against the system that gleefully profits from war and suffering.
It will take more. It will take much more. It’ll take unlearning deeply embedded ideas and learning new ones. It’ll take much less individualism, and much more understanding of how we inherently rely upon one another, and how we should rely on one another even more. It’ll take unlearning the idea that you or I are the main character in the story of humanity, and learning that mass movements, mass shifts of millions and billions of people are the main characters. It’ll take militant organizing on a massive scale, with the aim of transforming society. It’ll take radical thinking and unprecedented creativity, but I believe that we can do all of this and then some. Even more so I believe we must, and therefore I choose to believe that we will. All around us kids are marching out of schools, people are flooding the streets, and millions are refusing to be silenced. The seeds of hope and change are everywhere, sprinkled throughout our despair. Now we must organize to water them and nurture them and help them grow. They must overtake and overcome the horror from which they are emerging. Our survival depends on it.
Thank you for reading. If you’re able to support my writing, it lets me take more time to write for you. Thank you so much - Josh
Apply pressure for a ceasefire now: https://ceasefiretoday.com/
Take action with Jewish Voice for Peace: https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
Take action with the Palestinian Youth Movement: https://palestinianyouthmovement.com/
Take action with IfNotNow: https://www.ifnotnowmovement.org/
Support Boycots, Divestmest, and Sanctions: https://bdsmovement.net/
Find a protest to attend: https://www.gazaispalestine.com/protest