The next three days will bring the culmination of the 2020 election season, as those of us who have not already cast our ballots will show up on Tuesday to vote in our local, state, and national elections around the country. Lots of us are exhausted and discouraged, and after the chaos of the past four years, it seems entirely fair to be exhausted. As civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said, we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Many of us listened to Mr. Rogers when he told us during rough times to look for the helpers. Dear Heather, we are lucky we looked and we found you.
As I lay here in the pre-dawn of the day, like I have so many times when reading your latest post, I have quiet tears sliding down to my pillow, reflecting the heartening message you send out almost every day that Hope should be a steady sea anchor for all of us to cling to. I am forever grateful I came across your Letters many months ago. I had long before that given up trying to take in and process the fire hose of discordant and utterly baffling news. I had more faith in the late show hosts and their monologues than most news outlets (still do, actually). But your analysis, as well as the steadying hand of hope you've always held out, have helped me immensely. Thank you for the sacrifices you've made over the last year to produce your articles and videos. It is immeasurably appreciated.💕
Dr. R., I have never posted on your newsletter, but I must tell you that tonight, as I prepare to go to bed, reading your posting brought tears to my eyes. I so needed to hear a voice of hope, reminding me of all that we have within our reach, if we keep the faith. Thank you for all of your amazing wisdom and knowledge that you share with us. You are such a gift. And to all of our community here, I thank each and every one of you for your generous spirits, your humor, and your deep belief in the goodness that is out there.
I always wait till morning to read your letters because they are so rich and thought provoking, not necessarily what you want when trying to sleep. But tonight for some reason, I read this before turning out the light, and am so glad I did. This letter is calming and grounding and hopeful, and gives us all courage to face whatever comes. Thank you for all you have given us, ... insight, clarity, understanding, and reason to believe in our country.
I am a Southern-born, old, white, Vietnam era Navy vet, and retired lawyer, living very comfortably on my assets. So, demographically, I should not even know that your Letters exist, much less read them. I thank God for a friend forwarding one of your Letters to me around Labor Day, because I now read it religiously with my first cup of coffee. I am grateful for today's uplifting message. It has helped me get beyond yesterday's bad Iowa poll and my memory of 2016.
I’m one more person so grateful to Heather and to this amazing community. You have bolstered me in my dark days, even more so than some of my own family. So thank you all. Heather’s message mentioned hope and someone else mentioned faith. Let me add my own quote, by Edward Teller. “When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
The last seven months have been the hardest for me. Loss of my husband, the horror of the pandemic, and the ongoing disruptions of much the I hold dear about this country. It has been particularly difficult to believe that the future will be brighter. But your letter tonight gives me hope-for my children and their spouses, for my granddaughters, for my family and friends, for this country. Thank you.
Of all your beautiful letters, this is possibly the most beautiful and encouraging, upbeat, full-of-faith and hope letter I’ve read. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Heather!
What a kind and generous soul you are, Heather Cox Richardson. And brilliant, of course, a trait that has served all of us well over these past months as you've gathered up the shards at the end of every shattered day and pieced them back together. Because of that, I for one have been able to sleep at night, knowing that nothing crucial would be overlooked. You, on the other hand, were writing and posting into the gray dawn, documenting history for the rest of us. Thank you for your insights, your humor, your love for this country and its people, and your sane and grounded outlook on life. Blessings on you and all you love.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Thank you, Professor Richardson. Your faith in Democracy is inspiring.
I use your Letters as a teaching tool for my students here in Germany (thank you, for that as well) and last week one of my students commented that American Democracy sounds good in principle – but it isn’t working very well if one man, Donald Trump, can bring it to its knees. I paraphrase, but I think you get the point, and I would agree with this sentiment. Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, we find ourselves in a world of increasing tribalism and alienation at a time when Democracy is in trouble.
This morning I read two articles dealing with different aspects of the situation, but connected, I believe, by a common thread – unless all of us can somehow lower the temperature in the room by making a concerted and genuine effort to understand the root causes of the discontent our political rivals are feeling, we won’t be able to work our way out of this stalemate.
This work needs to be done out of the glare of cameras, in small groups across the country. If each Member of Congress, for example, held a “listening” series of town meetings in their constituency with voters from the opposing party, to hear their grievances, to get beneath the slogans and stereotypes, to make an effort to really understand their concerns, to dispel misunderstandings and political propaganda with facts, it might help begin a process of reconciliation. Convening small mixed groups of citizens who hold differing opinions – again, outside of the glare of cameras – might be another thought.
Word of mouth is a great form of advertising and change that lasts is incremental. Both of these statements are applicable to our situation. Biden can set a conciliatory tone and I expect he will, but the real work of repairing the torn fabric of national unity will need to be done person to person, neighbor to neighbor, co-worker to co-worker.
I know there are eyes rolling and folks thinking – poor, naïve guy, he actually believes dialogue is possible. Yes, I do, and I would be interested in hearing other ideas about how we might rebuild. The alternative - allowing the continuation of the present death spiral of anger and mistrust - just isn’t acceptable.
Anne Applebaum’s article in The Atlantic on cumulative extremism on the Right and Left:
Roger Cohen’s Opinion piece in the New York Times, “Freedom as the Muzzle of a Glock”:
In the end of the day we put aside our faith in men, in mere mortals, and put our faith in the inevitability of the brilliant idea, the universal truth, the inexorable progress of that long arc of the moral universe as it bends towards justice. Progress is integral in the word progressive every bit as much as it is integral to our future as a species. We will persist, we will progress, and we will see a better, brighter future. Thank you for cataloging and clarifying the confounding present as it prepares to some day be our amazing history.
Thank you, dear Heather, for all you have done for us. I know you have sacrificed beautiful days, sleep filled nights, and time with family to keep this ship sailing. And thank you to all my fellow readers. Without these letters and the knowledge that kindred spirits do exist, these would have been very dark times. I don't think any of us knew, when we read your first letters, what a wonderful community experience we were joining. Thank you for everything - especially hope! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
The essential difference, who do you care about?
I have tried hard to understand both sides in our current political divide. What is it that each sees so differently? I have talked about this to many and searched my own feelings and thoughts. I am sure there are ultimately many differences but after considerable thought I feel it comes down to one essential difference. Who do you care about?
It seems Trump and those who support him care more about themselves than anyone or anything else. It seems to be all about themselves or in the case of Trump, himself. He and his supporters feel they have not been treated fairly or with the respect they feel they deserve. They want this or that for themselves. They see themselves as deserving things they don’t have. I want this and I want that. It is like a young child who has not yet learned to share.
Biden and Democrats seem more interested in serving others. Who among us needs help? What can we do to lift our neighbors and our communities? Who needs help? What can we do for others? Democrats seem to think more not about themselves but for us as a neighborhood, as a community, as a country, and even about the needs of all who share the planet with us.
It seems as I look at every issue that divides us politically it ultimately comes back to one side who feels hooray for me and the hell with everybody else and another side who is about reaching out a helping hand and has concern for others.
I don’t think our politics have always divided along that line, but it seems the case now.
If my perspective is accurate, I am glad I have chosen the side of care and compassion for others. It is how I was raised by my parents, nurtured and educated to behave by teachers and role models, and raised my own children. Perhaps that is why all are Democrats and social justice advocates. Neither I or they were taught to be Democrats, but I and they were taught and learned values. Our values resulted in our political views and social behavior choices.
I see that I am not alone in literally being brought to tears by this profound message of hope. I Thank the stars for you Dr. Richardson and to all of you followers for indeed keeping the faith. I think what touches me the most is your identification of the amazing variety of what, and who, we are. Of our varied backgrounds and vocations and interests. So I’m going to tell you all who I am and what I do, in hopes that others will do the same. My name is James. I am a professional model maker; I’ve built models of many, many things, from John Deere tractors to AT&T answering machines to Bell helicopters and on and on. Now mostly building elaborate and large model train layouts for clients.
I’ve voted Democratic for as long as I have been able to vote, since 1981. Well, ONE time I voted for a republican, because he was an ok guy in our small town. But that was 22 years ago. And I still regret it as a stain on my record lol. It won’t happen again.
I wish everyone a peaceful time over the next couple weeks and months. Let’s keep it up and vote for humanity.
Your optimism is contagious. I kinda count on that.