It was an awful weekend of an awful year. In addition to the white supremacist terrorist attack in Buffalo, another mass shooting took place down the road from us in Laguna Woods. Another hate-fueled man drove hundreds of miles to kill innocent people because of who they are.
It’s easy to fall into despair at times like these. That’s the way my son felt today. He drives past the church in Laguna Woods every day on his way to the gym where he works out. Today, that church parking lot was packed with media vans and sheriff’s department vehicles. He told me he feels a “darkness” is overcoming the world. As a 24-year-old, he’s lived through 9/11, three impeachments, two economic crashes, a pandemic, an insurrection, and non-stop war. The 21st century has been a tunnel with no light at the end of it.
But I saw a TikTok video today that lifted my spirits by user sietesays:
As I listened to it, I thought of the speech Charlie Chaplin’s character says in The Great Dictator:
To those who can hear me, I say—do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed—the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
But these times, much like the 1930s and 1940s, are hard times to pass through. There will be much suffering, and many won’t make it. What can keep us going is the hope that after we endure these ordeals, we can build something good from them. We can rebuild from the devastation, learn from our mistakes, and create a more just and humane world.
There’s a scene from the new Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds, where Captain Pike warns the citizens of planet Kiley 279 the consequences of pursuing a destructive civil war. He shows them videos of earth that underwent civil war and a nuclear World War III that nearly destroyed humanity. Star Trek has mostly been optimistic—sometimes a bit too much—about our ability to overcome our hateful and destructive urges to unite and explore the stars. But at times like these, such optimism is desperately needed. We need a voice that tells us, “We are better than this. We can do better than this. And if we hang on through the resistance, hardships, and setbacks, we will do better than this.”
Sietesays is right. We are going through the death rattles of the old world and the birth pangs of the new. Such times are difficult to live in. But we look to previous generations who suffered similar tribulations, defended what was decent and just, and rebuilt a better world. We call them heroes. Now, it is our turn. If we are going to be heroes to future generations, we must hold on to hope.