The Case For Optimism In The Trump Years
I’m a little worried about Samantha Bee. I love her and I love her show, but I’ve noticed lately that the election and presidency of Donald Trump might have broken her. I feel this way because she’s repeatedly told us that the election and presidency of Donald Trump has broken her.
And I get it. Things that seemed literally unthinkable a year ago are now reality. Instead of standing with any shred of ethical duty or moral integrity, the supposed adults in the room are behaving like literal villains by coming up with plans hatched in secret which will ultimately kill people. For real. Your average Democrat/liberal/progressive feels unprotected by the government, and powerless to change that.
But we aren’t actually cynical. I’m hoping that Bee is playing up her pessimism for the show because it seems wildly out of sync with the stories she’s telling and the things she’s actually doing. For starters, you don’t work tirelessly on a show which seeks to combat the false narratives put out by Republicans or to shed light on under-reported problems if you don’t think change is possible. You don’t coordinate fundraiser to cover the possible lost funds to Planned Parenthood if you don’t think people will step up to support it. And you don’t ask the current embodiment of unrelenting optimism to come on your show, and discuss the state of our Democracy if you believe it’s dead. These just aren’t things you do.
Of course, we do need to acknowledge that there are people whose decision to fight isn’t determined by optimism or pessimism, but by the fact that some of us are unrelenting assholes and we keep forcing the fight on them. But Samantha Bee is not those people. She has the resources to bail on this fight. She could pack up the hubby and kids, and flee back to Canada if she chose to. She hasn’t. And if you also have the ability to bail on this fight and haven’t, then own your optimism. You’re worried you’ll seem naive because you believe things can get better? Does it make any more sense to continually fight against “unconquerable” odds when you could be flee? Does saying, “Things are terrible, they’ll never get better, they’ll only get more terrible, so I’m going to stay here and get sucked into the terribleness” make you feel smarter?
I understand the appeal of cynicism. It protects us from looking stupid when things don’t go the way we hoped they would. But we collectively elected an openly-racist, sexually-assaulting, pathologically-deceitful, reality-show-hosting, failure of a businessman. The time for not looking stupid is well past us. If you’re fighting for change, believe change can happen. Hope is a good color on us.
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