Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coping with Hopelessness (from Erica)

For a variety of reasons, mostly academic, the subjects of hopelessness and despair have been on my mind lately. They're things that most of us feel at one point or another in our lives; they come from depressive disorders, stressful life circumstances, overwhelming loss, and sometimes from watching these things appear in the lives of others. They can be associated with anxiety, anger, and apathy. They can be political and they can be personal.

A couple of days ago I received an email from my father-in-law's friend, a conservative man who informed me, among other things, that "social destructive to all involved." This man doesn't know me very well- he has no idea what most of my identities are, my politics, or my career. But he knows I'm a self-identified woman. The fact that he would say something so blatantly stupid and offensive to me got me very riled up, as you can imagine, but also left me feeling more than a little drained. If I can't even get someone to acknowledge some of the most basic, generalized benefits of social justice- citizenship for African-Americans and for women of any race and our rights to vote, for example- then what chance do I have of convincing that person even to begin considering the more intricate and important details of real social justice?

So the questions for today: how do we cope with hopelessness, as individuals and as political beings? What do we do to keep ourselves going when all odds seem against us? How do we motivate people for change when they can't acknowledge basic truths? Most basically, how do we keep ourselves from going crazy?

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