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On disarming despair.

How can a democratic activist help but feel discouraged? I would like to think the recent front-page feature in The New York Times on Elliott Abrams, President Bush's new director of Middle East Affairs and a pardoned player in the Iran-contra scandal, signaled a new era of forgiveness. An era of allowing convicts to put their criminal past behind them once they have shown themselves willing to reform. After all, with nearly two-thirds of young African-American men entangled in the prison system at some point in their lives, we certainly need a new attitude in order to re-integrate excons as contributing members of society.

But even I, a dedicated optimist, can see that the Times report, complete with photos, names, and positions of Reagan-era figures indicted -- then -- for crimes and installed -- now -- in high federal office does not reflect any positive development. The word impunidad -- impunity -- which I'd heard previously only in the context of Latin American political corruption and death squads, leaps to mind.

So, how to keep going? By enjoying a potluck meal with friends, by tabling and meeting other U.S. voters who care, by taking a walk in the snow or the first greening of spring, by helping construct a satirical giant puppet for the next demo -- by learning from women before us! We can find many ways to persevere, as women have for millennia. As we prepare to celebrate International Women's Day in March, let us also celebrate the knowledge that our sisters have always developed means for restoring hope -- and, even, enthusiasm.

Yes, women have done this, because they have had to! Women were, and are, the ones left with the children to raise in hopeless situations: after the war, the crop failure, the plague, the flood. Sometimes men were there, still alive, to help. But always, the women have persisted, struggling with their children toward a future.

We in WILPF are heirs to this carefully preserved tradition of perseverance--as important in peace and justice work as it is in raising families and holding together communities. These days, hopelessness is (as my favorite radio activist says) "widely available." Yet to give in to it is a self-indulgent privilege of the well off, born of social isolation. The poor African farmer surveys the losses to a crop caused by some mishap, feels sadness, and does not give up. She does what she can, what she must, to salvage the harvest and feed her family. She cannot afford the luxury of surrendering to hopelessness.

Nor can we. For an hour or an evening we may sink into it, but -- connected as we are to other people and to the world -- we too know we cannot give in to despair! I have heard some say things like, "It would be better if they just drop the bomb and get it over with!" These are words of loneliness, of hopelessness; what mother can look at her children and think that?

The necessity to go forward does not mean we don't cry. I take the time to sit with a loving friend, talk of how it should be, and we cry hard. Renewed, we get back to work!

I remember a peasant woman, a campesina from Honduras, who saw a friend of mine becoming down in the mouth upon hearing the latest news of horrors in Central America. "Don't be sad!" she encouraged. She switched the radio to something with a beat and declared, "Let's dance!" She knew that soon enough, she would be heading back to that frightening place-- a place still much worse off than where I live, here in Brave New World U.S.A. Yet she could dance and persevere.

Can we do any less? Take a hand, take a breath-- and take action!
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Title Annotation:positive outlook in difficult times
Author:Lu, Darien De
Publication:Peace and Freedom
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:WILPF Annual Report 2001.
Next Article:Save the dates!

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