What if we stopped one day, looked at all the work we had done to try to make the world a better place than we found it, and instead realized despite all of our efforts, we had failed?
What if we supported political candidates, helped to get them into office, only to find many of them, far too many of them, coopted by the perquisites of office, concern for reelection, or wanting to be "players" and abandoned what we thought they had promised us?
What if we devoted our energy and our time and our passion to trying to make the government more responsive to we the people and less responsive to those who already have power and money, only to find economic inequality becoming ever more severe, and decreasing numbers of people retaining any hope for a better future for themselves or their posterity?
Would we feel like fools?
Or might we wonder how much worse it might already be had we not tried?
The tale is of the boy walking along the beach tossing stranded starfish into the water.
"little boy" a man told him, "you can't save all the starfish."
"yes, but I can save this one" as he threw one more into the oncoming waves.
I am tired.
I am worn out.
I find it difficult to get up each morning, to drive 45 miles to continue teaching.
I find little energy for politics, for writing about policy, for challenging myself and others.
I see so much of what I have done, what I continue to do, and have to wonder why I keep at it, instead of just withdrawing, as increasingly I long to do, to carve out a space where I can just read, listen to music, pet my cats, spend time with my wife, maybe even get back to doing real cooking.
I will go to a political fundraiser into which I have talked my way in order to speak to an influential politician about an internship for a gifted student.
I will give up an hour of sleep to enable others to hear voices and read words that might make a difference for them.
I will force myself to keep challenging students who sometimes want to shut down, who don't think they have a future.
What if I didn't?
Would my non-participation make that big a difference?
Would the world really notice?
I don't know, and in a sense I don't care.
I would notice.
I would care.
I know what I have to do.
so long as I can breathe, drag myself out of bed in the morning, read, speak, write, teach, advocate.
I cannot say I will leave the world a better place than I found it.
I can and will say that at least i tried, no matter how poorly my efforts may have a positive impact.
i suppose that is why I am a liberal.
I suppose that is why despite my frustrations I remain a Democrat.
And most of all, I know it is why I continue to teach, whether in the formal classroom or through other means.
Teaching is challenging.
Teaching is provoking.
Teaching is engaging.
Teaching is reminding ourselves and others that things as they are now are not the only possibility.
I wonder if this makes any sense to anyone except me?