by Katie Ward, senior writing coach
“After all, it’s not all bad. You know what the fellow said- in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”
-Orson Welles, The Third Man
As I begin to write this post, I am finding it very difficult to remember 2017, not through lack of ability, but lack of will. This morning I sat in the Writing Center with a handful of other coaches and tried to come up with a list of things that have happened this year; we rattled off disasters, tragedies, corruption, deaths, but when I said that I didn’t want this post to be scathingly cynical, we tried to think of a few positives as well and came up blank. What good came out of 2017?
That’s a fair question. Every angle of the world, let alone our country, let alone Minnetonka, let alone ourselves, has been bruised by the pain of this year. Millions of lives have been lost, from the natural disasters in Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico, California, and Texas, to the terrorist attacks in London, Manchester, Barcelona, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, and Somalia. North Korea launched nuclear weapons. DACA was rescinded. Catalonia and Kurdistan’s revolutions were crushed. It is hard to watch the news because our universal question is no longer “What if something bad happens?” or even “When will something bad happen?,” but “What bad thing is happening right now?”
And yes, something bad is happening right now. There is no doubt about that.
But that is not all there is in the world.
This year, we have had hope. It has been shot and beaten and distorted nearly beyond recognition, but it is still there, and this is not in spite of tragedy, but because of it. At no point during this year did the world give up, as much as it may have wanted to, simply because that’s not what we, as humans, do. As long as there is human need for human kindness and human kindness for human need, there is hope. As long as we ask “What bad thing is happening right now?” as well as “What can I do to help?,” there is hope. As long as there is resistance, there is hope. I am not saying this in a veil of false idealism; look at our country. Racial prejudice is built into the foundation of our government. Natural disasters devestate our land beyond physical crisis. Politicians, producers, and countless other celebrities use their power to abuse and harass women. These are some of the worst truths of the world. But they aren’t the only things in America. Sports players are raising continuous awareness for police brutality and racial injustice; Minnesota elected America’s first female Somali Muslim legislator, a former refugee. Billions of dollars have been raised for Hurricane Irma relief alone; global donation has increased as well. Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and dozens of other men are finally being held accountable for their crimes; this spring’s Women’s March was the largest demonstration in American history.
In short, things are bad. No amount of blind optimism can hide that. But I’m not an optimist. I’m a realist. The reality is, we resist. The reality is, we endure. The reality is, we have a future, and we will fight for it. As the immaculate Orson Welles points out, the best comes from the worst. This pain makes us strong. As 2017 draws to a close and you stand in the shortening shadow of 2018, do not ask yourself “What if I do something?” or “When will I do something?,” but “What will I do right now?” So long, Holly.