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Ahlin: Generation of hope

Quoting the late teacher/anthropologist/psychologist Angeles Arrien, a friend of mine said, "We are not any of us safe until we're all safe."The quotation seems like a good way to sum up the message of the impassioned young people at the Fargo "M...

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Quoting the late teacher/anthropologist/psychologist Angeles Arrien, a friend of mine said, "We are not any of us safe until we're all safe."

The quotation seems like a good way to sum up the message of the impassioned young people at the Fargo "March for Our Lives" just over a week ago. And it started me thinking about hope: hope in adversity, hope in the face of tragedy, and most of all, hope for the future.

More than a protest, the message from the young people in the 800-plus marches across America was a declaration to take their cause of ending gun violence into the future. They see themselves as agents of change: people full of hope. In fact, a sign at one of the televised rallies read, "Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to change the world."

How surprising. How energizing.

Not all their passion has been well received. As their cause has grown, they've been pooh-poohed, treated condescendingly, and maligned. A few from the Parkland school visible on the national stage have found themselves subject to intentionally dishonest and disgusting smears. The polls may show the majority of Americans agreeing with the students' priorities for gun control, but the dollar signs of the NRA are aligned with politicians against them. The road to policy change will not be smooth.

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On Tuesday night following the march, PBS aired a documentary called "Dolores," about Dolores Huerta, a social activist for farmworkers in California whose indomitable spirit should give young people heart...and pause. Although as instrumental (or more so) than Cesar Chavez in improving the lives of farm laborers, she was pretty much written out of civil rights history. Only in recent years has her lifelong commitment to nonviolent activism and her effectiveness been heralded. (Even her motto, "Si' se puede," which in English became "Yes, we can" for Barack Obama's campaign, was mistakenly attributed to Chavez.) A mother of 11 children, she-and her family-sacrificed mightily for her work. Yet, she began every day in hope.

Hope is an abstract quality better explained by metaphor than definitions. Think of the poet Emily Dickinson calling hope, "the thing with feathers-That perches in the soul-And sings the tune without the words-And never stops at all."

How easily we comprehend hope as a tiny bird with a song that cannot be stifled. There also are times we understand hope because we recognize it in others; there are times we feel it in ourselves as strongly as our heartbeat. Other times we don't see or feel it at all.

Hope can seem mysterious. It's different from wish, desire or optimism. (Hopeful people aren't necessarily happy.) Hope is motivational but must endure setbacks and go on. What hope never includes is fatalistic acceptance of the status quo.

Young people aren't satisfied with a status quo that accepts mass shooters in schools as inevitable. Hope makes them confident that change is possible. And that should make us all hopeful.

Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email janeahlin@yahoo.com

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