I happened to catch that part of Michelle Obama’s recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, when the outgoing First Lady of the United States said, “this is what not having hope looks like.” I knew right away what she meant; and so did a lot of you, I’m sure.
But there are millions of people in the U.S. who feel hopeful about the prospect of Donald Trump being formally inaugurated President on January 20 of the New Year and where that might lead. I daresay they are bound to be disappointed, perhaps terribly so.
What the future holds in 2017 is anybody’s guess now; but from where I stand looking out over the prospects for the world from my vantage point in a quiet little rural area called Hope Ness, just north of Hope Bay, on the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada it doesn’t look good – the future, I mean.
Don’t get me wrong, the vantage point from atop the Niagara Escarpment cliffs overlooking Georgian Bay is beautiful, as impressive as any you might see anywhere on this wonderful little blue-green jewel of a planet, even now, despite all the damage being done to it – by us, yes, by us.
I think of that line from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, “oh, what fools these mortals be.”
And then I think of all the foolish things I’ve done in my life, and another line, from the hero in Hemingway’s story, To Have and Have not, comes to mind, “A man ain’t got a chance alone.”
Listen, Donald, I find myself saying out loud to President-Elect Trump, listen, this is really important: nobody’s perfect, but some are better than others in their wisdom and thoughtfulness and sincerity about trying to do and be the best they can. For our own sake, and for the sake of others around us, our lives should be a process of growing, learning, renewal and becoming. But to help us on that path it’s really important to seek the company of people we can trust to give us good advice, and even challenge us as needed, gently or not.
For example, I might tell you – as I have told myself so many times – take some time to think, to reflect, and even talk over the issue at hand with a good friend/counselor before opening your mouth or otherwise making an impulsive and, therefore, most likely bad decision.
Getting back to Michelle Obama for just a moment, I also caught what she said to Oprah Winfrey, about she and her husband Barack so far having a good, friendly, even warm, relationship with Trump and his wife Melania during this transition period.
Michelle told Oprah she and her husband Barack want to continue nurturing that good relationship. She said it’s just the right thing for the sake of everyone to do whatever they can to offer advice and moral support to help Trump be a “success” as President.
That’s the very definition of magnanimous. So far, no matter what Trump has said or felt about Barack Obama, or vice versa, he seems genuinely touched by the kind, helpful, and sincere generosity of the outgoing President and his wife. And I use that word “touched” deliberately. Trump is clearly a complicated man, with many layers covering the core of his being, his soul, if you like. The more that can come out and be nurtured by himself, or others, the better, for all of us. And to think the fate of the world may depend on one man becoming more self-aware.
So, yes, on the one hand it’s hard to feel hopeful about the coming year for all the reasons that have piled up over the course of 2016, and are still piling up. We cannot pretend they aren’t real, or misunderstand them as false hope.
When will the world ever learn? terrorism begets terrorism. A tractor-trailer rampaging through a crowded Christmas Market in Berlin was an act of terrorism. So was the massive bombing of the beseiged Syrian city of Aleppo that killed so far untold numbers of innocent people. Some of the survivors may end up coming to Canada. I say welcome.
How does this dangerous world get turned around in the direction of renewed hope?
Well, for one thing, you shine a light wherever and whenever you can, and perform a remarkable act of generosity and kindness at the right and timely moment, as the Obamas have done, and hope it makes a difference.
In that case I certainly hope it will. And I hope others, in positions of power, or not, will take it to heart and try to shed some light of their own where it will do some good. It all adds up, a light here, a light there.
Happy, hopeful New Year.
A version of this was originally published in The Sun Times in December, 2016