What do we value?

My theme this month is “working toward a better future.” That probably is a pretty common and predictable topic at the turn of the year, when it seems as if we have a new chance to “get things right.” 

NOTE: every day actually is a new chance. Every hour. But many of us do tend to think about it more around New Year’s.

How “right” we can get things depends in part on the cards in our hand, however. Last year at this point, for instance, certain decisions already had been made. Votes had been cast, and irrevocable changes set in motion. We dodged a few bullets in 2017, but some dies already had been cast by this time last year. In this context, I’ve been thinking about a pair of “takes”  on current events, by two commentators whom I respect.

4-27-08 Al DIAZ / MIAMI HERALD STAFF — Leonard Pitts Jr. Miami Herald Staff.

The first is a recent column by the ever-perceptive Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist based at the Miami Herald. He wrote that “our sense of what is allowable and acceptable on the public stage, have been eroding for years, but 2017 saw the process accelerate like Usain Bolt. It was the year things that are not supposed to happen happened all day, every day.”

He goes on to lay out the argument that we’ve come to a place in the public discourse where “anger, coarseness, political destabilization, and a trickle-down nastiness [is] visible both in anecdotes and in hate-crime statistics.”

But he doesn’t leave it there. He’s one of my favorite columnists because he always takes it to the next step. He ended his column, not with a groan of despair but with a call to action: “civil society is not something you take for granted. It’s a choice you make, a thing you have to fight for. Which will be a fitting mission for 2018 and beyond.”

Resisting the tide of discord and “trickle-down nastiness” is an honorable goal, and it is our daily choice. I’d like to echo Pitts’s challenge as well as respond to it in my own life. We also were treated in the last few days to another ringing call fo a better future, when Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. In case you haven’t heard her speech, or even if you have, but want to hear it again, I’ve embedded a YouTube video of it here.

Even if some things look bleak as we move into 2018 and beyond, let us “maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.” Let us all affirm together we “know that a new day is on the horizon,” because we are working to make it so.

Let us never lose hope, and never allow our weariness to keep us from continuing to fight for “the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again,” and we live in a civil society where  the dignity and value of all persons are respected, basic human rights are demanded for all, and where we cherish the well-being of this fragile globe that we call home. It’s only too late if we give up on the values we hold most dear.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jeremy Graham, Sr. on Ingrum, for the “Working towards a better future” image, and to Al Diaz and the Miami Herald for Leonard Pitts’s photo, via his profile on Speakerpedia. Many thanks to CNN for the transcript of Oprah Winfrey’s speech, and to NBC via YouTube for the video of Oprah’s acceptance speech.