Optimism in 2017

Before I started as the blog managing editor for Luna Station Quarterly–a journal dedicated to female writers and speculative fiction–my editor asked me if I could write with a more positive tone. Could I present inclusive feminism as more than a pipe dream?

Equality sounds great, but do I actually believe it is possible?

My answer has to be yes.

Except, I’m not an optimist. Not in the long term when it’s so easy to view human history as great swathes of human disaster cloaked as something a bit more palatable–slow human progress. Glacially slow human progress.

When people want you silenced, imprisoned or dead based on your race, gender, religion, sexuality, ability, nationality or any number of intersecting identities, it’s difficult to believe humans have made much progress at all.

It is easy to be a pessimist. I fall into this trap all the time. When my mother tells me about some great nonprofit organization, my first thought is to list all the ways their goal and their mission will inevitably fall short. If this organization serves queer and trans youth ages 12-18, for instance, what about people under or over that age restriction? Are we supposed to hope that the 19 year old who needs these services will somehow manage to fall under the umbrella of another nonprofit? Also, where does this organization get its money from? I can guarantee it’s not all individual donations. I’ve been a canvasser for a 501(c)3. I’ve worked in development and written grants and had to wonder why I was asking Coca Cola and Wells Fargo to fund an organization aiding survivors of domestic abuse.

SARAHI’m not an optimist. But I’m trying because it’s grossly unfair of me to say that just because a nonprofit organization isn’t able to help everyone, that it therefore helps no one and is inherently useless.That’s giving up. It’s critiquing the solutions of others without offering a solution yourself. That’s saying all solutions are flawed so why bother trying at all?

Activism and the work of organizers isn’t useless. And whether that activism is through protests and rallies, canvassing, grant writing, religious charities, online communities, or any other avenue, our work is making a difference. We are building communities and uniting people across differences. We are promoting a world of love that knows no boundaries.

I hope for a world where we no longer need charitable organizations to take care of our country’s most vulnerable–that should be the government’s job. But my resolution for 2017 is to build optimism into my life each day, even if I have to force it. I will not move into 2017 from a place of hate.