In the Christian tradition, Lent is a period of forty days, beginning Ash Wednesday, when the observant go into a period of denial, penance, and prayer, and, more commonly give up something important to them until Easter. While, as a Jew, I do not subscribe to the risen Christ -- and can't really reconcile giving over the suffering of someone else's punishment as reparation for my own sins -- it's more than clear that the Catholic church in specific, with its direct lineage from Judaism, understands guilt and denial almost as well as we do. So, in the spirit of ecumenical understanding, I hereby deny myself indulgence, for the next six weeks, in the most important thing in my life: Hope.
I give up Hope that Dick Cheney will ever stop lying, no matter how much video and audio there is that completely discounts whatever he says at any given moment. I also give up the Hope that the national media will stop giving him a soapbox on which to pontificate.
I give up Hope that a decent national health care reform proposal will even be discussed seriously, never mind that anything that denies the power of the insurance companies and big pharma will pass.
I give up Hope that the American public will actually educate themselves as to the issues facing our country today. I give up Hope that they will read a newspaper or two and do some of their own research, rather than just accept the inane meanderings of the mainstream electronic media.
I give up Hope that Rachel Maddow will receive a Pulitzer Prize for just being the smartest, bravest journalist in the United States.
I give up Hope that Birch Bayh will shut up.
I give up Hope that the Republicans will suddenly realize how idiotic it is just to say "No," and will actually consider thinking about things before they don't vote for anything.
I give up Hope that the American public will put the universal good before their own selfish needs.
I give up Hope that the recession has done anything to change the national mindset about carbon emissions, big business, the banking cartels, the lobbyists, taxes, or anything else that adversely affects our country.
I give up Hope that corporations, national and internal, will take responsibility for the harm they do.
I give up Hope that the Corporate Destructive Officers will suddenly see the light and work for the better of their companies, rather than taking the money and running.
I give up Hope that people who comment on articles on the internet will actually stop and think before posting snark and cruelty.
I give up Hope that the supporters of Fat Awareness will realize how silly their cause is and pause to consider that in this nation of obesity 47 million Americans are starving.
I give up Hope that fanatics will no longer feel the need to push their agenda on everyone who does not believe as they do.
I give up Hope that the future generations has any idea how dangerous plagiarism is and that all one has to do in a given piece of writing or literature is acknowledge both source and influence.
I give up the Hope that the American public will suddenly become readers of great glossy magazines as opposed to internet sound bites that pass for "magazines."
I give up the Hope that reality television in the main will die a quick and painful death.
I give up the Hope that people will actually choose substance over style.
I give up the Hope that American Idol will no longer be the most important venue for an aspiring singing star.
I give up the Hope that people across the world will finally and unequivocally realize that war sucks and gets us nowhere.
I give up the Hope that we won't have to personally donate to every disaster out of our pockets in order to save lives.
I give up the Hope that parents who seem to mean well will actually raise their children to be decent, well-mannered, and thoughtful human beings, rather than pals who "like" them.
I give up the Hope that girl children will no longer be paraded in pageants like mini-whores.
I give up on the Hope that Americans will stop ignorantly disrespecting other countries' health plans, culture, lifestyles and the rest, as distinctly inferior to our own.
I give up Hope that patriotism will get its good name back.
I give up the Hope that the huge discrepancy between the rich and the poor in this country will disappear and also the Hope that people will idolize capitalism as a false prophet.
I give up Hope that chicklit, and vampire novels, and self-help books will disappear, en masse, from bookstores.
I give up the Hope that fame is the ultimate goal in life.
On a more personal note: I give up Hope that fathers who actually take a day-to-day interest in their kids' lives, and husbands who stay home with the kids will no longer be the subject of "trend" newspaper and magazine articles, but become, instead, part of the norm.
... the Hope that men and women will stop circling each other like wrestlers and actually really get along, the Hope that Spring will come before Summer, and that the six feet of snow piled outside my door will actually melt; the Hope that losing ten pounds won't seem insurmountable, that we don't have to all have Botox and plastic surgery to compete in the market, the Hope that good conversation hasn't really died a hopeless death, the Hope that people will be nicer rather than meaner, that examining one's life will not be seen as a throwback and a weakness but as an important element to becoming a whole, functioning human being. I give up the eternal Hope that most people won't see life as drudgery but as journey, no matter how many bad things happen to them. And lastly, I give up Hope that people will no longer wallow in their victimhood but will grow courage and strength from their adversity.
This list of Hopes is a lot harder to give up than, say, eating chocolate or red meat, but my feeling is that if one is going to make the effort to give up something for Lent, it should be a biggee. So, in the next six weeks, every time I find myself Hoping that people will come to their senses and that the world really is on the road to better understanding and awareness; when I find myself Hoping that education will triumph over ignorance, I'm going to stop myself. Quickly. And go and find a chocolate bar as my penance.