By Benjamin J. Hubbard
Sadness has many forms. The loss of a spouse, parent or child crushes the heart like a head-on collision. We try to cope with such pain through funerals, wakes, support of friends, and the conviction that we may meet again on another plain.
World sadness is different. Wars, famines, pandemics and genocides are so immense that we feel inadequate to mount a response. Take the war in Ukraine: once again a tyrant has managed to convince a nation that brute force is the only solution to a perceived injustice. And so, Ukraine burns, and its people weep.
Did we not think after the two great wars with their atrocities and genocide – and after Europe’s centuries of brutal conflicts – that the formation of the UN and the EU might bring Europe lasting peace?
But it was not to be, and sadness envelopes us. We foresee with dread a brutal winter of cold and hunger for Ukraine’s people. We fear the return of the nuclear monster not seen since 1945.
At home, we feel a Lincolnian dread at what might result from the internecine hatred that rips at families and make lawmakers fear for their lives. What if Trump is indicted for his Jan. 6 actions? What if Biden wins a second term and Republican state officials manage to overturn the results? And here we are on the precipice of the unpredictable mid-terms.
But hope has the power to resist these insults to civility and justice. Religion scholars are trained in hopefulness: By studying the immense wisdom treasure of the world’s living religions it’s possible to imagine a world of renewed justice and compassion. Of course, they also study the persecutions, pogroms and fanaticism that pockmark the history of religion. But the vision of what each of these wisdom traditions has to say about a transformed world can inspire hope and the power that comes with it. It is a vision of peace, tolerance, justice and love.
That power now consists of supporting the Ukrainian people financially and spiritually, of writing to them, and praying for them. We must tell them they are not alone and have not been forgotten.
In America, we must not give up on the moral middle, the open-minded majority who know we cannot continue with the suspicions, conspiracies and mutual contempt poisoning us.
There is power in each of these humble convictions and gestures, and it produces hope. Tyrants in the end never win. It will be so again the stronger we hope for it.
Yes, it is a quixotic hope, but there is power within it: Never give up, never despair, never grow cynical. Hope endures.
Benjamin J. Hubbard is professor emeritus of religious studies at Cal State Fullerton. He is a resident of Huntington Beach. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune.