The death of hope can push us into a very dark place, but that darkness is the birth canal of real change.
For some people, hope came in the form of a red hat, with stenciled letters embracing their foreheads promising to Make America Great Again. My hopes were pinned instead on Bernie Sanders: my idealistic, naive trust was uniquely attached to the blue and white of the Bernie sticker I placed on the bumper of my car. Words can’t adequately describe the innocent hope I attached to those colors. As Jared Beck writes in his book, What Happened To Bernie Sanders:
“In 2016, the dream was shared by over twelve million Democratic primary voters, as well as nearly 2.5 million campaign donors, that for the first time in forty-four years, a genuinely progressive candidate might run for President of the United States as a major party candidate… In seeking the explanation for how the dreams of millions of Americans came to be shattered in this manner, I have found it necessary to come to terms with the potential demise of my own dreamscape – one that has propelled my life path since my middle school days in a small suburban community outside Albany, New York.”
Jared Beck and his wife Elizabeth Lee Beck are attorneys for the plaintiffs in the DNC Fraud lawsuit. What Happened To Bernie Sanders diagrams the reasoning behind Beck’s disillusionment with the efficacy of both the legal system and the Democratic Party. Ultimately, Beck concludes that the DNC is beyond saving and has successfully engineered the nomination process to such an extent that, in his opinion, there is no way in which an anti-establishment progressive could hope to be nominated as a Democratic Party Presidential candidate. He concludes that the only way for progressive ideals to germinate lies outside the DNC.
Like many others, I believed that Bernie Sanders intended to create a grassroots movement that served all of us, in contrast with Hillary Clinton’s overtly self-centered “I’m with her” campaign slogan. I thought Sanders would spearhead a challenge to the corrupt political establishment. This was the Sanders that inspired me. When he spoke about a movement that was made up of the people, not centered on the person who led it, I believed him.
In September 2015, my week was made infinitely better when a fellow Bernie supporter left the above note anonymously on my windshield. For me, this was an example of a fellowship among those who supported Sanders: one based on positivity, inclusiveness and genuine hope.
Such goodwill was epitomized by the famous incident in spring 2016 when a small bird landed on Sanders’s podium as he spoke to a packed rally in Oregon. The event inspired viral memes and articles almost instantaneously. Like so many others, my emotions and hopes were tied up in what I felt Sanders’s campaign represented: a movement driven by all of us, and that together we could make changes that were beautiful and real. The finch-on-the-podium embodied that emotion.
The near-biblical overtone of the finch landing on Sanders’ podium did not go unnoticed. Local press at the time reported Sanders’s remarks: “I think there’s some symbolism here, I know it may not look like it, but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace.” There is nothing like a little divine intervention to inspire the emotions of a crowd, and that is exactly what the bird-on-the-podium moment did.
The Death Of The Dream
Faith keeps many of us in situations we might otherwise walk away from, whether in our personal lives, our professional spheres or on a national level. As a small-scale example, hope and a treasured ideal in relationship allows a person to ignore the cheating or violence of their partner, in hopes that next time they really mean it when they say they love you, and that they are telling the truth when they claim that whatever variety of betrayal won’t happen again. The death of that dream – the realization that the relationship will never change and that there is no hope for a different future with that person – is what finally frees one to leave the situation.
As Caitlin Johnstone puts it:
Forgiveness is a key foundational element in most abusive relationships. The abusee is manipulated or bullied into forgiving the abuser again and again, without ever holding a grudge. This is true of a battered spouse, and it is true of an oppressed populace.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) August 27, 2018
In a larger sense, the only way we can begin to tangibly change an unacceptable national reality is to begin by facing it head on: hope allows us to continue to live in unacceptable conditions. To run from the death of dreams, then, is to run from the death of an illusion that prevents change.
As a Sanders supporter, the dream didn’t die when he was cheated out of the Democratic nomination in the spring of 2016. It finally burned out only when Sanders refused to confront the rigging of the election by the DNC, and again when he endorsed the neo-Mccarthyist agenda engineered to deflect from the election rigging that stole the nomination from him. This represented a betrayal of the millions of people who spent their food and rent money to raise more than $200 million in support of his campaign.
Sanders didn’t stop at quietly allowing lies to circulate, he actively participated in perpetuating and endorsing them. Even as Clintonite trolls and hack jobs continued to blame him and his supporters for Clinton’s loss, spewing hatred at the same people they rigged an election to cheat, Sanders did not stand up for those who voted for him. Instead, he validated the lies used to silence them.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Sanders said: “We have a major government, the Russian government, led by Mr. Putin, actively interfering in our elections, determining, trying to do everything that they could to make sure that Mr. Trump won the election,” Sanders said. “Now, there may not yet be any evidence of direct collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign… Perhaps today we do not know, but clearly, this is an issue of enormous consequence.”
We do know the truth about the 2016 election. The Democratic Party, the corporate owned media, and the entire foreign policy establishment colluded to screw the only candidate that could beat Donald Trump in the general election. I’m blanking on that candidate’s name … https://t.co/CXKfxpIrxc
— redacted tonight (@RedactedTonight) August 24, 2018
In response to the farcical Mueller indictments, USA Today reported Sanders’s sentiments: “It has been clear to everyone (except Donald Trump) that Russia was deeply involved in the 2016 election and intends to be involved in 2018… It is the American people who should be deciding the political future of our country, not Mr. Putin and the Russian oligarchs… It is absolutely imperative that the Mueller investigation be allowed to go forward without obstruction from the Trump administration or Congress.”
Again: Sanders had the gall to state that it is the American people who should be deciding the political future of our country, while duplicitously ignoring the interference in that process that robbed his supporters of their democratic voice and ensured a Trump victory.
Sanders’ stance was not a simple betrayal of some abstract concept we label truth or justice. It represents a deep stab in the back of every person who donated to his cause, who believed in him and reflected that trust in their contribution and vote. It was a validation of the very corrupt forces Sanders spent his entire campaign railing against.
His 180-degree turn was one that ran so deeply counter to the courage of the Sanders I supported in 2015 and early 2016, that there was no possible way to reconcile the two. It was at this moment that the dream inspired by his campaign had to die, because it wasn’t based on reality.
No matter how painful, this is the challenge facing all of us as we move forward – or refuse to – in a world that is continually lying to us and hooking into our emotions to do so. This is the case, whether in terms of Sanders, Trump, Qanon, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or anyone else who promises to buck the establishment while fully endorsing its harmful narratives.
John McCain’s legacy represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.
As an intern, I learned a lot about the power of humanity in government through his deep friendship with Sen. Kennedy.
He meant so much, to so many. My prayers are with his family. https://t.co/iu28V3snDm
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) August 26, 2018
The focus on Sanders in this article is entirely based on the fact that his campaign and his response to it being undermined by the DNC served as the specific impetus for this writer’s current understanding of the dangerous nature of misplaced hope. However, the basic premise is the same no matter who your savior is.
First @realDonaldTrump gave us hope, then #qanon gave us hope….We were told to trust Sessons, trust the plan, that gave us hope. 25,000 sealed indictments gave us hope. After 2yrs of hoping I'm for one am burned out. Even when crimes are uncovered, nothing. Now what?
— Gary Bivens (@GaryBivens7) August 25, 2018
Unfortunately, the more intensely we feel we cannot survive without the dreams we hold dearest, the more likely we are to refuse to let such hopes go when they fail to conform with reality as it is. The deeper the suffering we seek to hold at bay with misplaced hopes, the more cognitive dissonance is provoked when evidence challenges such dreams.
The incomparable Caitlin Johnstone has written eloquently about the way in which manipulators have harnessed our most cherished dreams in order to abuse us. As Johnstone points out, we must recognize that our ability to feel is viewed by the sociopathic and psychopathic among us as a weakness to be harnessed and exploited.
As the plutocracy tightens its grip on the throat of the US public, demanding that people work themselves to death while barely able to avoid homelessness and hunger, justified misery will result in escalating desperation to find hope whether in an 8chan-based-persona or in opioid addiction. Hope that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Hope that if we wait a little longer, the ‘storm will come‘ and the corrupt unelected power structure will be swept away. Hope that even for a short time we can escape reality.
This article is not intended to demean anyone who feels this way: much of it is focused on my experience as a Sanders supporter to emphasize that this is something I’ve experienced, and is not meant to ‘look down on’ anyone.
The collective pain driving the need for respite from reality among the American working-class is near-unimaginable, with suicide rates increasing drastically across the country between 1999 and 2016. The Huffington Post reports that the experience of the United States’s working-poor is ‘pure hell.’
As Chris Hedges recently wrote: “We live in a new feudalism. We have been stripped of political power. Workers are trapped in menial jobs, forced into crippling debt and paid stagnant or declining wages. Chronic poverty and exploitative working conditions in many parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, replicate the hell endured by industrial workers at the end of the 19th century. The complete capture of ruling institutions by corporations and their oligarchic elites, including the two dominant political parties, the courts and the press, means there is no mechanism left by which we can reform the system or protect ourselves from mounting abuse.”
The deeper we sink into such unfathomable misery, the more desperate the public will be to believe in the promises of false saviors, no matter how obvious the sham is. The establishment is fully aware in that the more devastated we are by striving to make end meets, the more vulnerable we are to manipulation and the less likely we are to fight back against them.
Thus the betrayal by Bernie Sanders of the same public who he sold the dream of grassroots-change is doubly poisonous.
This opinion is not a call for nihilism. It is intended to advocate that each of us realize our own power rather than hand it over to others. You, the reader – yes I am referring specifically to you as a unique individual – are the only one that can change a single thing about the world around you. You are powerful, and your choices have meaning and impact.
This is the same exhortation I’ve expressed multiple times during the Unity4J online vigils. You the reader are the ones who must act; you cannot merely watch a vigil, read an article, vote for a candidate or read Qanon posts and hope that reality will change thanks to someone else’s action. Fully realizing your own power is the ultimate goal and outcome of letting go of hollow dreams.
When we stop using false hopes to beat back the all-consuming darkness we sense around us, we are empowered to respond in a tangible way to the pain and suffering that exists. Only when we face reality as it is, is it possible for real change to start to unfold. It does not grow on its own – it is reliant on each of our individual choices.
Intentionally dousing a proverbial false light – no matter how reassuring – might seem ludicrous. Everything in our bodies screams at us that if we lose this source of comfort, we will be alone in the wilderness: however, it is only when we extinguish the flame, that our eyes can adjust enough to see what is actually around us. Our sincere, dearly-held hopes and misplaced dreams figuratively blinded us to our real surroundings.
Once we let go of the symbolic fire that we believed crucial to our survival, our adjusted vision enables us to become truly empowered as opposed to pacified. To find our own direction instead of interpreting the shadows on the wall thrown by the flame, to reference Plato’s cave allegory.
As in the prior comparison between the death of a dream and the birth of tangible change, after the cessation of a misleading light we are enveloped by pitch-black starless night for a moment, the space of a breath, as our eyes adjust.
In summation: it is only when we let go of our heroes that we can begin to save ourselves.