Taking a glimmer of hope from Election Day

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Voters went to the polls in Illinois’ primary on March 20. | Getty Images

On March 20, Election Day, if you weren’t looking closely, you might have missed it. You almost had to squint to see it, but there it was.

It was hope.

Hope wasn’t a candidate’s name on the ballot. It wasn’t a referendum. Hope — once our champion, cheerleader and agent of change — was now a languishing, almost unrecognizable presence between the campaign and the ballot box.

Since the departure of the Obamas from Springfield and then from Washington, political strife, budgetary stalemates, polarization, misogyny and fear-mongering have had a stranglehold on hope. With each budget cut, company outsourcing, threat, offense, deception, injustice, indignity, dishonor, violation and slap in the face, we became conditioned to defend ourselves, land a counter-punch, resist, fight back, debate and remain guarded.

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Hope once was the maestro that orchestrated all things good, inspired refrains of respect and chords of collaboration. Hope inspired record voter turnout for an Illinois senator who was elected and reelected president.

So what happened? Hope was hijacked by hatred, held hostage by the political class indebted to lobbyists, donors and investors. It was sidelined by hotheaded and hardhearted leaders who were tone deaf, silent and lacking vision in responding to hurricane devastation, mass shootings and collusion. Hope seemed to be fleeting, elusive and on the cusp of evaporation, until the midterms.

Prior to the midterm elections, hope wasn’t homeless — but it was hidden. Hope resided in our hearts, but, after being pelted with political punches, breaking-news bricks, swamp swipes, bar-lowering blunders and rabbit-hole races, our hearts became a little stony, perhaps to protect our hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you” …. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God promised to give us hope because He knew one day we would arrive at the intersection of astonishing disbelief and ashen depletion and need His hope.

Beneath layers of disbelief, derision and defensiveness, hope waited for an invitation to pierce the rancor. When coalitions were built, candidates were selected and midterm petitions were filed, hope took a risk and quietly left its shelter and reappeared.

Theresa Dear. | Provided photo

Theresa Dear. | Provided photo

This new hope is not like anything we have experienced. It is a hybrid of Obamaesque optimism and personal prowess. It is an immutable thing that whispers “non quam postea” — never again — and shouts, “we call BS.”

This hope does not place its promise and faith in one leader. This hope places its promise and faith in humanity and community. This hope is not defined by one cause. It is multigenerational, elastic, nimble enough to defend many causes. It sets its sight not on the White House exclusively but on every house. This hope is built on grassroots, sweat equity, GoFundMe, WTH, hashtags, Instagrams and #MeToo.

Hope became the companion of the Parkland protesters when they decided to stand up for gun control. Hope was the accomplice in a conspiracy to produce a historic victory in Illinois’ 14th District where Lauren Underwood, a 31-year-old African American female defeated six male congressional opponents. Hope was the force behind Marie Newman’s nail-biting race against incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Third Congressional District. Hope was the pace, cadence and chaperon for every step taken at the March of Our Lives.

Hope is the new four-letter word that replaces those other four-letter words, where we were so damn mad that we didn’t care if we used them as a noun, pronoun or adjective as long as they emphatically made our point.

Hope is our new teacher who instructs us against impulse and impasse and instead guides us to impact. Hope is now an abiding presence that assures us victory is accompanied by patience, plans and a promise from God.

Hope has always been a prophetic power discerning who, when, where and how to make its presence felt. When uncertainty looms and the path ahead is unclear, we need the kind of hope that only God can give — an irrefutable, unshakeable, inextinguishable, undefeatable hope.

Politicians, leaders, servants and humanitarians prevailed in the primary election. But there was another winner in a race in which no results were reported.

Hope was the underdog. And hope won.

Theresa Dear is an ordained elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and pastoral support minister at DuPage AME Church in Lisle.


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