I believe the world can be a better place. No, I believe we can make the world a better place.
Oh boy! I’m really stepping out on a ledge here, eh? Why don’t I just go to the middle of the mall and sing, “I’d like to build a world of hope …” You know: “It’s the real thing, Coke is.” I’d sing it with a big smile, of course, and sway happily from side to side. Smiling and swaying – that would make it happen, huh?
You see, at age 56 it’s real easy to think the world won’t be a better place, that we can try to make it a better place, but our efforts will go down the drain.
Almost 40 years ago, I absolutely believed down to my very core that the world was on the verge – just a few more years – from becoming a visibly, noticeably, even measurably better place for everybody. The revolution was just around the corner and everything was gonna be alright. We were going to make it happen. On May 9, 1970, I was standing on the Mall in Washington, D.C., with at least 200,000 other people who were all within a couple years of my age. We were going to make it happen. We were going to bring peace and truth and justice and equality to the world. We shouted it out for all to hear. We believed it.
As most people may have figured out, it didn’t happen. Peace arrives one place and evaporates somewhere else. Truth? I was a journalist for 29 years; truth has always been elusive, and is more so now, especially in journalism. Justice and equality? Hard to buy into those when you see the misery doled out in the world for no justifiable reason.
Given the disappointing results as I look around the world in the decades since 1970, it would be natural to say I believe in the steady slide of humanity and the dire prospects for the world at large. Fact is, I have said it. I don’t believe it, though. I thought I believed it. Still, life’s daily actions say something else: That if I did believe it, I wouldn’t go on. If I did, I wouldn’t teach. If I did, I wouldn’t vote, and I wouldn’t bother working against bad things like that tire-burning plant on Erie’s east side. If I did, I wouldn’t look so fervently to the day when a grandchild arrives.
There’s still hope that we can make this a decent world, even a better world, for that grandchild and everyone else’s grandchildren. This, to my surprise, I believe.
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