Part of the message of Advent--a large part--is that the future is never a foregone conclusion. It depends on divine initiative and invitation.
Another part of the message is that the future also depends on our own fiat to this divine initiative and invitation. It depends on us, on our choices and actions. It depends on our collaboration with (literally, our "working with") God.
For many Americans, the 2012 elections point the way to a future that makes a place for the talents of women, people of color, Latinos and Asians, gay and lesbian people, and the rising generation. For many Americans, that is to say, the recent elections provide an occasion for hope, no matter how muted.
For some Americans, however, the hope represented by the elections is in and of itself precisely problematic, because those Americans do not want or intend for a place to be made for anyone but themselves. For their sort and kind. For those akin to themselves alone.
And so immediately following elections that have opened the door to hope for many citizens of the U.S., we see events like the organized draconian, highly successful stealth attack on workers in Michigan: a warning sign from a small but all-powerful group of fellow citizens who still control things to a great extent, that our hope comes with a high price tag.
For every act of democratic self-assertion on our part, we'll see an act of political terrorism brought to us by the 1%, to remind us that we are ultimately impotent. We may vote. We may elect.
But we don't control.
Control remains in the hands of the super-rich and those who are able to buy the political process, the laws made by lawmakers, and the judgments handed down by the highest courts in the land.
I am tempted to read the decision of the Supreme Court to hear cases involving DOMA and prop 8 as a prelude to just the same kind of slapdown of gay citizens that the middle and working classes of the state of Michigan have just received from the Koch brothers following the sizable vote of that state for President Obama in the 2012 elections. Payback. Effusive public lessons intended to teach us that, though we may vote and we may elect, we are ultimately powerless.
We are ultimately powerless when power remains squarely in the hands of the tiny percentage of Americans who own most of our wealth, and the minuscule percentage of grossly powerful Americans who sit on the bench of the Supreme Court.
And so my Advent hope is muted. I recognize the overweening importance of God's invitation to a future different from the one scripted into human history by the Fall. But where my hope begins to falter is with the second part of the proposition of Advent: with the response of my fellow human beings and of myself to that invitation.
If we allow ourselves to be slapped down repeatedly, to be distracted by distraction from the all-significant goal of building a better world for all of us, to be defeated and convinced of our inability to change things, then the future that opens for us through the hopeful events of history always immediately forecloses. And the future becomes dystopian rather than a future full of hope.
If we are, as Leonardo Boff observes (with Atahualpa Yupanqui), all fundamentally la tierra que ande, the earth lifted up to walk together as solidarians trudging a shared path to the future, then hope for the future of our world always lies squarely in our decision to walk together. And in our recognition that our destiny is radically linked to that of every other piece of earth lifted up and walking alongside us in the world.
But these are recognitions I'm not convinced most of us in a nation surfeited with things, in which ruling elites have long successfully played us one against the other, are quite prepared to get--even if not seeing them dooms us to a dystopian future in which the 1% finally consolidate their rule of us by rendering null and void any political decisions we choose to make by casting our votes . . . .