Kenneth Cole

Milwaukee Independent

For those who love America 2018 draws to a close not with a whimper, or a bang but with tearful regret.

The highest gun death rate in our nation’s history, death by dehydration of seven-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin in U.S. custody, the elevation of men accused of sexual assault to the highest office in the land, and a spike in hate crimes and assassinations of people of color like never before. If nothing else, 2018 has proven that the devolution of American society was a rather easy task. Not done at the hands of one man, but with the ease and hands off complicity of millions.

For those who love America, the end of 2018 is a time to wipe those tears aside and recognize that sadness, regret, and an awakening of the realities of what our nation has become is a sign of hope. Amidst the chaos and the growing 2018 gallery of rogues, there are countless signs that serve as a beacon of hope and a path for many to follow. While others dueled on social media and were shocked at what our nation has become, countless others put their phones down and lead the way, leaving signs and markers for us to follow. They have modeled for the nation what it will take to save America.

2019 is a time for hope to be realized.

Hope was realized with every step taken by Shorewood students as they marched to Janesville to advocate for sensible gun legislation in response to the Parkland shooting, and countless other senseless acts of mass violence. Hope was there as women ran for state and local offices at unprecedented numbers, awakened and inspired by the need to put our nation back on track. Hope was in the car as people were driven to polls by volunteers in the active practice of exercising their right to vote.

Hope was scrawled across a sign by a nine-year-old girl as she prepared to let her voice be known as she marched in support of immigrants, and for families to stay together. These are not celebrities, moguls, or state senators, these are the grassroots beacons of hope and they have charted a course for our hometown and nation to emulate.

Following in their footsteps is not resistance. It is simply accepting our intrinsic and natural embrace of the humanity and compassion that will help us save ourselves and our democracy.

As more and more Americans discard the generations-old assumptions that our nation will be saved by others, and not by our own actions, that is when hope will be realized. It emerges and inspires action when we no longer rest on the laurels of what we thought were the impenetrable and incorruptible institutions of our democracy. Hope emerges with increased passion and guided and peaceful ferocity as we take off our red, white and blue colored glasses and realize that the mediocre and chaotic efforts of a lying charlatan was all that was needed to expose the fragility of our institutions.

Hope is nothing without action. The women, children, and students leading the way have proven that. In cities and villages across Wisconsin and our nation what is needed in 2019 is no longer just having people who “mean well”. Meaning well results in coffee shop conversations, progressive bumper stickers, and yard signs. Finding comfort in meaning well conveniently absolves many of their own guilt, but does nothing to bring about change.

It is when we “do well” that hope is realized. Do well by questioning whether or not you’ve done enough, or done anything to truly bring about change. Do well in the form of outreach and dialogue. Do well by having the difficult conversations with those you disagree with. Do well by recognizing the chasm between your views of fairness and equality and those in your life who embrace white supremacy, misogyny or turn a blind eye to cruelty within our own borders.

Do well by letting go of consumeristic distractions and extending a hand to one another, not being silent while people – who we call friends or family – justify the deaths of children, or turn a knowing and willful blind eye to anti-semitism.

As 2018 draws to a close, wipe away the tears but remain connected to the injustice that caused them to fall. There is an odd, but necessary duality in activating hope, while remaining connected to the pain within our nation.

It is that awareness that reminds us of how far we have fallen, and how far we must go. As progress is made that duality keeps us keenly aware that our nation’s darker side will not go quietly into the night. But with hope, unrelenting resilience, vision, and action, they will be slowly driven back into the shadows.

And when that day comes, and as confetti falls from the rafters, rejoice that once again our humanity has prevailed. Rejoice, but do not rest on the very laurels that were there in 2017. Toss those aside, along with the naiveté that brought our nation to the precipice of destruction.

Hope is not a return to what was, but rather it charts a new course for where we must go and a recognition that you are there to lead the way.