We have a redemption problem in this country right now. Whenever we find ourselves in darkness, usually of the political sort, we rush to identify a savior: a faultless leader who can save us from ourselves. In our binary good versus evil world, we wait for someone with fairy dust to sprinkle on our deep and pervasive problems and then suffer when the truth comes out. The promise is tarnished. The leader is flawed. He or she turns out not to be our redeemer. We are heartbroken. We take out Leonard Cohen's Manual for Living with Defeat and hum a few bars. The pattern is entrenched. We will wait again.
I learned long ago not to wait. An enduring memory of elementary school came from a baritone of a sixth grade teacher who, when one of us would make a mistake, would bellow, "Redeem yourself." He waited patiently for us to fix our errors, imparting in our impressionable minds that learning came from a never-ending cycle of blunders and corrections. The word "redeem" came to represent, for me, a higher order of knowledge directed by the self to the self. Don't wait for someone else to clean up your mess. Clean it up yourself.
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