Seeking Hope in Dark Times

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Keep Right – Column by Ralph K. Ginorio

You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

 George Taylor (Charlton Heston), “Planet of the Apes,” 1968 

Humanity is dancing on the edge of a precipice. As a species, we cavort wildly, taunting doom, daring fate to cast us all into the abyss. We each must consider how we might meet our shared historical moment of existential risk. Every one of us should consider where we can find hope amidst so much worry.

Astoundingly, some among us actually strive to bring about an end to all things. A few zealots crave to be the hand of God that will spark the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or Communist apocalypse; a doomsday that they believe will usher in a millennium of heaven-on-earth free of unbelievers.

Others, megalomaniacal narcissists, eagerly work to burn our world in hope of ruling over the ashes. Sane people do not think like this.

Sane people are as often the victims of history as its authors. Most well-adjusted people wish to be left alone; free to care for their loved ones, build a home worth living in, create beauty, earn prosperity, worship freely, and speak truly.

Liberty-oriented societies like the Unites States are paradises for such sane people. The opportunity to lead such a life is precious. Most human beings, both in the past and around the world today, live under oppression in dismal poverty.

History is often made by fanatics. Such people conclude that salvation only comes from an all-consuming commitment to their own secret truth. Their purified world must be born with the murder of our present world.

Consider the many innocents who are a part of this present world. Our friends, children, pets, disabled brothers and sisters, and all of our dreams of peace, prosperity, and progress will die if this world we share ends.

Are my dark musings overwrought? I hope so! Maybe they are worst case scenarios, like the fears of Europeans in the late 1930s of a mutual annihilation by air fleets dropping mustard gas on every civilian settlement.

We do face real threats. Some could usher in a new Dark Age. Others could bring a worldwide mass extinction. We ignore such risks at our peril.

Is our contemporary world worth saving? Many of us are decadent, self-absorbed, vain, brittle, and vicious in defense of our excesses. The innocents killed from abortion alone eclipses the numbers murdered by Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot combined.

While many of us buck these trends, our society has feet of clay. We can only hope that our virtues count for more than our vices.

Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon!”

Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), “Watchmen,” 2009

Faced with an unknowable and uncertain future, what can we each do?

Will we make the preservation of our world our personal concern? Will we make learning about it, improving it, and protecting it in some real fashion our own responsibility?

If we are privileged by circumstances to stand for life, protect innocence, counsel wisdom, and preserve what is best, shall we actually do so?

Will we stand apart from desperation, panic, and savagery in favor of speaking and acting according to the dictates of our conscience, whatever the cost?

What should we try to do? Do we pause occasionally to seriously consider the dictates of our conscience? Will we each be willing to risk everything we have to do what seems to be right, come what may?

What should we refuse to do? Are there worse fates than death? Is death preferable to slavery? Are there abominable things that we will never do, even if they are the only way to survive?

Every choice that each of us makes shapes the world. Few are more important than what we choose to live for, to die for, and to kill for. By thinking now about what our answers to these big questions might be in extreme circumstances, we might save lives. More than that, we might make the moments that we are given more worth living.

Keep calm, and carry on.”

King George VI to the British people, at the outset of the Second World War