Seasonal Salon

The Possibility of Hope

Daffodils insist on blooming in spite of the late winter snowfall. Their yellow faces offer us the promise of warm sunny days. A robin appears in our yard—surely a harbinger of Spring. The sweet sound of a red-winged blackbird wafts through the morning mist. If we look, really look, we can see tiny red buds on the maple tree and each day the earth becomes just a bit more green. It is Spring…the season of promise and hope, renewal and rebirth.

Yeah…right! How can I feel hopeful when the world I have known is being hi-jacked by self-serving politicians? What do I do with the hopelessness, the despair that consumes me? The worry, the rage, and yes, the helplessness. I am paralyzed as I witness all that I have fought for, all the progress I thought we had made, be annihilated with one stroke of a pen, and then another.

In less than two months, the newly elected president has signed a dozen executive orders undoing many of President Obama’s policies. Just hours after he was sworn in, he instigated the undoing of the Affordable Care Act—which at this writing has been shelved, for now.

Under the guise of “enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”, he stripped “sanctuary cities” of any federal funds, and banned entry to our country any one entering from five Muslim countries.

He has fueled misogyny, racism and classism with his arrogance and ignorance of the ways of governing the most powerful country in the world. We are becoming a laughing stock as world leaders and citizens shake their collective heads in dismay.

Alas! That is only the beginning. The man who currently inhabits the White House is submitting a budget that will tangibly affect every woman and man, elder and child in this country…except, of course, the wealthy elite.

Do I feel hopeless? Do you?

It has been my great fortune—in my search for sane feminist voices—to discover Rebecca Solnit. She writes of hope; she gives me hope when she says, “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”

Solnit’s book, “Hope in the Dark”, is a “manifesto for hope as fuel for activist change.” (Huffington Post, 11/10/2016) “Your opponents,” she says, “would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win.

Let us acknowledge: Across the country, grass roots organizations are popping up like the spring beauties in the woods. The Women’s March in January—the largest demonstration in history—set the tone for protests around the country and the world. We show up at State Capitols; we wear our pussy hats to protest the defunding of Planned Parenthood; we rush to the nearest airport to welcome immigrants and to express outrage on the ban to exclude them from our shores. We join task forces to change redistricting/gerrymandering, to fight for clean water and air. Friends lead us to, (modeled, by the way, after those tactics that got the Tea Party in place) a nationwide phenomenon emerging in communities everywhere. We write letters and post cards to senators and congressman; we commit ourselves to making 5 or 6 telephone calls each day to those in Washington who either need our support or need to hear our point of view. We consider running for the election of our local School Board, explore possibilities for serving on the City-County Council, and if we are unwilling to run for office, we vow to work on those campaigns of those who are willing. We attend public hearings in the State Legislature on bills that are relevant to our causes. We vow to work to get out the vote in 2018.

We are raising our voices; we will be heard!

In my city, a small group of women initiated an entity, Women 4 Change. They expected 30, may be 50 women to attend. 700 gathered! By the first “summit”, organized a few weeks later, 1500 women and men showed up ready to commit their energies in one of four task forces. At this moment, their numbers exceed 12,000 throughout the state of Indiana (considered a “red state and home of the Vice President).

On a very cold January evening, the Indiana ACLU invited citizens to their “First Wednesday” meeting at which thirty people usually attend. The response was so unexpected, the usual venue had to be changed to accommodate the 300-plus, standing-room-only crowd. I was there and I was inspired by the panel of women representing Planned Parenthood, “The Recorder” (a weekly newspaper geared toward the African American community), Muslim Alliance of Indiana, and Immigrant Welcome Center. I felt hopeful.

Hope needs to be nurtured; hope will die in a vacuum. But our citizenry is waking up and we are rallying. We are shouting. We are holding our signs of protest high. We are educating ourselves; we are gathering information from reliable sources. We are re-learning…dusting away the cobwebs from that Civics course required in high school so long ago. And we are knowing we simply cannot afford to surrender to cynicism and despair.

Complacency and hopelessness are no longer acceptable. We don’t have time to scratch our heads, wondering How did this happen? We don’t have time to blame the brother-in-law or the friend who either chose not to exercise her right to vote or cast his ballot for the one who

Rather, let us hope we keep the fires burning. There is much work to be done.

Ms. Solnit reminds us “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.


Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. She has completed an historical fiction novel, A Thousand Tellings, based on her suffragist grandmother. She published Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, in 1996, available through RCGI. She has returned home to Indianapolis with her beloved.

Category: Spring Equinox 2017