Hope vs. fear is one of our very least favorite rhetorical pairings here at Legion, but it seems to have hit the big time once again. While reminding us ad nauseam that November 2008 will not be about left vs. right but about the future vs. the past, last night’s speakers at the DNC also made certain to reassure us that hope will see us through the mess that fear made over the past eight years. At every mention of hope during the telecast, I bristled audibly. My brother posed an annoyed but apt question: What is it that you really expect from them?
I expect them to be afraid. The future poses some incredibly frightening prospects, and it may well be too late to reverse wrongs perpetrated not only over the past eight years, but since our nation’s inception. My original repulsion over the hope obsession–taught so competently to the rest of the party by Bill Clinton and now resoundingly echoed by Obama–stemmed from outrage over the exploitation of an incredibly vulnerable human capacity for optimistic belief. Hope, I felt, was the making of humanity, and it was being run rhetorically ragged. Now I am starting to think that fear should be given its due.
To spur radical or even mildly inconvenient public action, it seems a blazing fire must be lit under the collective American ass (widening, as Garrett noted, every day). This summer’s epidemic of overdue environmental consciousness has gone a long way toward convincing me that the American people are in far greater need of fear’s stick than of hope’s carrot. Weather patterns are becoming stranger and stranger, gas prices are through the roof, and polar bears on eco-alarmist TV spots are floating captive on pathetic chunks of dislodged polar ice. The public is finally afraid. Consequently, hybrids are selling like hot cakes and even John McCain is paying lip service to energy alternatives. If this is the way things have to work, I would like to express my hope that Americans continue to fear.