Trying Hard To Be As Relentlessly Optimistic As Cory Booker
We’re big fans of Crooked Media around here. You might have read this post way back when (Jesus, that was only January?), but we’ve kept track of what the Pod Save America boys have been up to from time to time. And with their expanded hosts and show formats, there should be something for everyone. Or at least for everyone who wants their podcast politically driven with a liberal bent.
But I’m mostly not here to talk about the ever-growing Crooked Media empire. Rather, I’d like to talk about the most recent Pod Save America guest Sen. Cory Booker, and the value of unrelenting optimism. In the episode “Tweet Your Feelings” which dropped Monday at about 5:30 Eastern Time (bang up job on planning that out, Jons and Co.), Booker does what he has come to be known for: putting us all to shame with his unwavering positivity. The last forty minutes or so is an interview with Booker, where he attempts to interject data-driven solutions to problems, practical policy changes, an unshakable understanding of our interconnectedness, and some basic civility and compassion into the political discussion.
Which should really piss me off. I’ve argued in favor of optimism during our current destructive political climate, but I usually draw the line when it comes to being, shall we say, kind to political adversaries. Because often there is a genuine harm attached to the political beliefs that people on the other side of the aisle hold. There might be some economic policies upon which a conservative and I can disagree, and I don’t believe that is a reflection of their ethics. But when the Republican party attempts to kick 20 million people off of their insurance to provide tax breaks to billionaires, I get angry. When they insist that some marriages are valid and others aren’t because they don’t view certain people as humans, I get angry. When they insist that there isn’t a systemic issue of racism and violence against people of color and we just need to teach specific communities to respect the police and learn self-reliance, I want to burn the whole thing down and (maybe) start over.
And mostly I want to inflict pain. I want to be cruel and cutting to people I believe are inflicting harm on others. Because it feels good goddamnit. There is no high as blissful as the perfect insult delivered to a person you feel has wronged you. If we could bottle that, the opioid crisis would be over. Unfortunately for me, Sen. Booker advises against doing exactly that because of things like “not being effective at making changes” and “the need to work with others to accomplish our goals” and “basic human decency.”
It’s infuriatingly effective. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, I’d highly recommend listening to at least the last fifteen minutes. Tommy Vietor asks how we stay positive in the face of the overwhelming horribleness that is our current political system, and Booker launches into a twelve minute treatise on the power of individuals to make changes and the need to not allow the fight to corrupt us. He includes a personal anecdote that I don’t want to spoil, but suffice to say, it got very dusty in my car immediately after he’d finished telling it. Specifically this line:
Love leaped geography and leaped time to affect generations yet unborn. I am here because Americans whose names I don’t know put dollar bills in collections plates. Americans I don’t know and can’t name stood on a bridge for one act of protest. One act of protest changed hearts and lives. That’s the power of love. Don’t let Donald Trump turn you into something that you’re not. Don’t let hate make you hateful. Don’t let darkness make you dark.
Ugh. And as if that weren’t enough, he didn’t argue just in favor of not going dark, but in actually, firmly believing that love and belief in the humanity of our fellow citizen will save us.
As King and Gandhi, who defeated some of the most powerful forces on Earth, will have shown us is that love, if we are bold and sacrificing and willing to give it all, love ultimately will win the day. And we as a country will get out of this period, and get back on the road to justice.
Son of a come on! In this current political age, with the current sitting president and the always present despair that is Mitch McConnell, Cory Booker might have actually done the impossible. That bastard made me a believer.
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