Nine quotes of hope in the face of US election despair
09 November 2016
It’s been a pretty dreadful day. It’s dreadful in the abstract for those of us living outside of the US, much more concretely dreadful for those within the USA, and worst of all for the visible migrants, Mexicans, Muslims, queers, and people of colour who will now be facing a wave of enabled hatred and violence in the wake of Trump’s racist victory.
In making this list, I don’t want to sit here thousands of miles away from the USA and say to people that everything is going to be fine – I think things will be far from fine. But this is a small attempt to start spreading some small seeds of hope – seeds that will need urgent nurturing to grow and feed the strength and resilience of our movements that are going to be so necessary in the coming years.
(Warning, ends on a note of particularly phlegmatic British stoicism that might not work well for friends across the pond right now.)
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
Maya Angelou, author
“Presidential elections are a form of madness that comes over us once every four years. They fit the great-man or -woman narrative of history, seducing us into forgetting how powerful we are. They erase our memory of grassroots power, direct democracy and civil society. Leaders beget followers; people pin their hopes on one person, and with that they seem to shed responsibility for anything beyond getting that one person into office. Or, they wash their hands of any further involvement if it’s not their one person…. it matters who is president, but what a president does has everything to do with what the people demand or refuse or do themselves, and what the House and Senate send them or sabotage.”
“Though we tremble before uncertain futures
may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength
may we dance in the face of our fears.”
Gloria E. Anzaldúa, scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
Howard Zinn, peoples’ historian
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Audre Lorde, self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”
“Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost ... The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”
Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator
"Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight for freedom, it makes it all go easier. I will not allow my life's light to be determined by the darkness around me."
Sojourner Truth, African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist
“A visionary left at this moment is better suited than routed establishment Democrats to catalyze an uprising against Trump and Trumpism – engaging the protest voters’ pain and fear rather than pathologizing them, as many did (to disastrous effect) during the election.
“Together we can propose plans for a democracy and economy that work for the vast majority of people living in them, calling out the system as rigged, showing the ways men like Trump rigged it and charting a tangible way forward.”
Kate Aronoff, journalist, writing in the Guardian
“There is no final victory, as there is no final defeat. There is just the same battle. To be fought, over and over again. So toughen up, bloody toughen up.”
Tony Benn, long-serving UK MP and pivotal figure in leftwing politics
Photo: Audre Lorde