All good and big things begin with belief in the possible. We are facing a crisis of confidence, and we need to face it down, sidestep the dread and move ahead.
Why do we look around and see rising chaos, a global shrug at rippling bad acts, heartbreaking actions and reactions, failed policies, government abuse, dysfunction, corruption, a sense of collective wearisomeness with it all?
Let’s get specific, think harder about the world, as it currently seems to be.
Why do suicide bombers exist? Because resentment outweighs hope. Because emotions, especially hate, can be easily ignited, cajoled, and manipulated to outshout and intimidate logic, even in one brain, one heart, one malleable soul, especially the young.
Because with little to live for, little of value, little material worth celebrating, little to hope on, or look forward to, or happily imagine… people are vulnerable.
Vulnerable to what? To eager pushers of radical ideologies. Like being introduced to a captivating drug, people succumb. Ideologies of hate feed anger, envy, resentment, and escapism. Because across much of the world, the value of life itself is low.
This is the saddest of realities, true in both half and full measures. This reality and fear are the malign motivators of senseless acts and philosophies unworthy of discussion, radical ideologies that treat life with indifference, victims and killer.
Truth is that we are witnessing – on a global scale – an erosion of hope, faith, belief in rights and peace, lost appreciation for life itself. Call it a landslide, not erosion.
In some places, respect for life was never taught or learned, like Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, languid Laos, crime-infested Venezuela, violent Iran.
The very idea of God-given rights – that God loves you, honors your individuality for all your faults, failings, and flaws – is unknown, something people are not used to and dare not believe in.
Today, we see Islamic radical terror, but also communist Chinese murder and persecution, death dealing by Russians in Ukraine, and a rising sense of global disarray, a spinning moral compass, overlapping circles of human distress.
Where does hope lie then? How have we, in times before this one, converted hopelessness into hope – for example, after the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, epidemics, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tragedies, and the Holocaust?
The answer is that we – America – have modeled the “possible,” taught by example, shown unwavering faith in the power of human minds and hearts to heal, to revive, to summon reserves of resilience – with faith in God, peace, hope, and the future.
We have done that one by one, as a nation after wars, and after 9-11. We have demonstrated how to rally and defeat fear. We have led the world in this practice, shown how to get up, get going, not quit, not stop believing in that moral compass.
We have shown that life – like liberty – has value, that one life matters, always has and will. That is what we, as individuals, as America, and for the world need to do now. That is what leadership, moral, political, un-quitting leadership, looks like.
We are in a leadership troth, but we can crest again, be as strong as some of us think in our hearts we are. That kind of leadership turns back terrorism, lifts hearts, restarts hope, retires resentment, provides vision, educates about the possible, and puts the world back on solid footing.
We are not there yet. It will take time. But if hope is a poor strategy, not a winner without conviction and action, hopelessness is a worse strategy, none at all.
To turn the dial, stop the chaos, cure the cursed, reverse the landslide, we need to start pushing our leaders to envision healing, honor, accountability and hope, not the reverse.
If you look around again, and look closer, you will see that nothing about the modern mess, malignancy, and malaise is irreversible, nothing is inevitable, nothing is worth devaluing life for any reason.
The unspoken truth is that up-valuing life – our own and others- is at the center of this thing, and we need leaders who believe, model, and can teach that.
If we can elect them, the chaos goes away, stability returns, peace begins to stay. Norms change, faith in the possible grows, more conflict resolution less fear, war, and destitution. Good and big things begin with belief in the possible. Now is time.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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