Looking for hope in the new year

Yes, I guess this is about me: 2016 Was the Year White Liberals Realized How Unjust, Racist, and Sexist America Is. When Obama was elected in 2008, I made chocolate chip cookies decorated with tiny flags on a toothpick pole – American flags on one side and Obama’s portrait on the other – and brought them into the office to celebrate his victory.

All the French people I know were happy. I read somewhere that about 95% of the French would have voted for Obama. I usually don’t broadcast my patriotism or wear it on a tee-shirt – I guess because of history, many French people are uncomfortable with that – but there I was. And not only me, many of my co-workers pinned up the toothpick flags on their open space walls, Obama and the US flag.

As an American in France, far too many French people would tell me spontaneously, “I don’t like Bush” or “America is racist.” Now, everyone was congratulating me (since I got the blame for Bush, naturellement I got some credit for Obama :)) I was proud that America elected Obama. It was proof of what was good in America. Hope. Change. Progress. It felt real. It was real, in many ways.

Only, for many people, it seems it was not after all. Growing up in America, I wasn’t aware of the injustice and suffering in my country. The precarity of people without jobs or who are living paycheck to paycheck. People who are mistreated or who live in fear because of their color or immigration status. A justice system that is not fair to all. And the fear, anger, even violence, directed at fellow human beings.

It’s not just the US, of course. We have the same problems, prejudices and extremist views in Europe, and the security checks are a daily reminder of the terrorist threat. There is a lingering fear that a holiday celebration will end in tragedy.

At the end of 2016, the world feels precarious and frightening. I lost my father this year. He studied history and read extensively. I wish he was here to give some context and maybe find a way to reassure me that everything would work out in the end.

In 2017, I want to be hopeful that US institutions and the world coalitions that promote peace and world stability will prevail. I believe that most Americans, most people, are good and have kind hearts. I will strive to open mine to others as best as I can, knowing that I’ve looked the other way far too often. That’s my takeaway for 2016.

It’s hard to be optimistic for the year ahead, but like many other people, I will do my best. Let’s hope, somehow, it all works out.

Peace to all.


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