Cornel West makes the point that hope is different from American optimism. After the initial presidential election results come in, I stop watching the news. I want to continue watching, charting, and discussing the counts, the recounts, the hand counts, but I can­not. I lose hope. However Bush came to have won, he would still be winning ten days later and we would still be in the throes of our American optimism. All the non-reporting is a distraction from Bush himself, the same Bush who can’t remember if two or three people were convicted for dragging a black man to his death in his home state of Texas.


 

You don’t remember because you don’t care. Some­times my mother’s voice swells and fills my forehead. Mostly I resist the flooding, but in Bush’s case I find myself talking to the television screen: You don’t know because you don’t care.

/
 

Then, like all things impassioned, this voice takes on a life of its own: You don’t know because you don’t bloody care. Do you?

/
 

I forget things too. It makes me sad. Or it makes me the saddest. The sadness is not really about George W. or our American optimism; the sadness lives in the recog­nition that a life can not matter. Or, as there are billions of lives, my sadness is alive alongside the recognition that billions of lives never mattered. I write this with­out breaking my heart, without bursting into anything. Perhaps this is the real source of my sadness. Or, per­haps, Emily Dickinson, my love, hope was never a thing with feathers. I don’t know, I just find when the news comes on I switch the channel. This new ten­dency might be indicative of a deepening personality flaw: IMH, The Inability to Maintain Hope, which trans­lates into no innate trust in the supreme laws that gov­ern us. Cornel West says this is what is wrong with black people today—too nihilistic. Too scarred by hope to hope, too experienced to experience, too close to dead is what I think.

Claudia Rankine, “Cornel West makes the point… (pp. 21-23)” from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Copyright © 2004 by Claudia Rankine.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

Source: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely(Graywolf Press, 2004)

Claudia Rankine

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