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Hope and Fear

23 Apr

Flashin’ for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashin’ for the refugees on their unarmed road of flight
And for each and every underdog soldier in the night
We gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashin’
— Bob Dylan

I have a couple friends who haunt me.

I’ve known my cousin Sam longer than I can remember.  Born within months of each other, we shared holidays from the time we were infants.  Our mothers were close, the fourth and  fifth of six sisters.  We spent nights at his house and he spent nights at ours.  We swung on ropes across the shallow creeks of the Detroit suburbs and shared the easy camaraderie of boys on the loose.  His mom put me up when I got my first job.  I was there for his wedding, and I was there for his Mom’s memorial service.  He’s a part of my life and always will be.

I met John when I was twelve.  My dad was transferred, and suburban Detroit gave way to the small town of Perrysburg, Ohio.  Eight miles south of Toledo, Bob Hope had stopped into Piatt’s bakery just days before we moved in, and in the Middle School classrooms I met both John and Will.  Smart and mischievous, they were everything I wanted to be.  Bicycling around that little town on the river, fueled by the freedom, we made our first steps into adolescence.  Girlfriends were found , parents lost, and the years rolled quickly by.  I have not seen John in something like thirty-five years, but not many days pass when I don’t think of him.

In the days after the last election I put together a mix-tape.   It begins with Springsteen announcing the 1988 Amnesty International Tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, “a document signed by every government in the world forty years ago recognizing certain inalienable rights for everyone, regardless of your race, your color, your sex, your religion, your political opinion or the type of government your living under…  So, I’d like to dedicate this next song to Amnesty International and their idea.  So when we come to your town, come on out, support the tour, support human rights for everyone, and let freedom ring.”

It’s so damn hopeful, it chokes me up every time.

And then I think about John and Sam, who inhabit a stretch of the political spectrum far from my own.  I wonder if these words would move them as well.  I wonder if freedom means the same thing to them, for it’s a word easily manipulated.  The freedom of the individual ends where his actions hurt another.  But when the word is used in a political context it too often means freedom from responsibility to ones neighbors, to the world we inhabit, and the future of our children.

And then I think about underdogs, which we’ve all been, and continue to be.  It’s the gift of youth to see this, and an even greater gift to hold onto it as we age.  When I see a guy who’s left his home in Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico, traveling thousands of miles to provide for his family, I can’t help but pull for him.  He’s my great grandfather.  He’s everyone’s great grandfather.  Do Sam and John agree?

I’m not a great joiner.  I don’t have a team.  I don’t have an alma mater.  I don’t think that America is the greatest country in the world simply because I was born here.  But I like people, and I think we’re all in this together.  There’s way too many of us, and we’re destroying the planet, and maybe as a group that’s all we’re capable of.  But individually, at our best, we’re breathtaking.

Hope and fear.  My buddy Wade dismissed this dichotomy as a straw man, but I think he’s wrong.  Hope drives us when we’re young, while fear creeps in with age.  Hope looks to the future, while fear is of the moment.  Hope builds, while fear shuts things down.

Fear is also universal.  It’s a given.  Hope takes courage.

I’ve always wanted this blog to be more of a barroom conversation than a drunken rant.  So, Sam, John, Wade, or anyone else out there who has something to say, I’d love to read your response.  If you’re interested, you can be the next post.

So sleep well, hug your families, and hopefully we’ll talk soon.

And let freedom ring.

 

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