In the Christian tradition, Lent is a period of forty days, beginning Ash Wednesday, when the observant go into a period of denial, penance, and prayer, and, more commonly give up something important to them until Easter. While I as a Jew do not subscribe to the risen Christ — and can’t really reconcile giving over the suffering of someone else’s punishment as reparation for my own sins — it’s more than clear that the Catholic church in specific, with its direct lineage from Judaism, understands guilt and denial almost as well as we Jews do. So, in the spirit of ecumenical understanding, I hereby deny myself indulgence, for the next six weeks, in the most important thing in my life: Hope.
I give up Hope that the news will really be news instead of celebrity gossip, fashion, who is lying to whom, and all the other drivel that seems to populate the airwaves.
I give up Hope that the American public will actually educate themselves as to the issues facing our country today. I give up Hope that they will read a newspaper or two and do some of their own research, rather than just accept the inane meanderings of the mainstream electronic media.
I give up Hope that the anti-vaxxers will “get it” before an innocent child dies of a completely preventable disease.
I give up Hope that men will stop “mansplaining” everything and that male politicians will stop thinking that they can legislate what happens with women’s bodies.
I give up Hope that people will stop voting in politicians who continue to vote against their best interests and the Hope that Republicans will suddenly realize how idiotic it is just to say “No,” and will actually consider thinking before they don’t do anything.
I give up Hope that the American public will put the universal good before their own selfish needs.
I give up Hope that anything can change the national mindset about carbon emissions, big business, the banking cartels, the lobbyists, taxes, or anything else that adversely affects our country.
I give up Hope that corporations, national and internal, will take responsibility for the harm they do without regulation. And that politicians will stop trying to deregulate industries that don’t police themselves.
I give up Hope that the Corporate Destructive Officers will suddenly see the light and work for the better of their companies, rather than taking the money and run.
I give up Hope that people who comment on articles on the internet will actually stop and think before posting snark and cruelty. And I especially give up Hope that women will feel safe on the internet.
I give up Hope that the supporters of Fat Awareness will realize how silly their cause is and pause to consider that in this nation of obesity 47 million Americans are starving.
I give up Hope that fanatics will no longer feel the need to push their agenda on everyone who does not believe as they do. That includes ALL fanatics, at home and abroad.
I give up the Hope that reality television in the main will die a quick and painful death (with the exception of The Great British Baking Show).
I give up the Hope that people will actually choose substance over style.
I give up the Hope that people across the world will finally and unequivocally realize that war sucks and gets us nowhere.
I give up the Hope that we won’t have to personally donate to every disaster out of our pockets in order to save lives. And that the people in general will do the right thing before they are shamed on the Twitter.
I give up the Hope that parents who seem to mean well will actually raise their children to be decent, well-mannered, and thoughtful human beings, rather than pals who “like” them.
I give up the Hope that girl children will no longer be paraded in pageants. And I give up Hope that girls and women can dress as they wish without being slut-shamed.
I give up Hope that women will ever stop being scared of what a man can do to them.
I give up on the Hope that Americans will stop ignorantly disrespecting other countries’ health plans, culture, lifestyles and the rest, as distinctly inferior to our own.
I give up Hope that patriotism will get its good name back.
I give up the Hope that the huge discrepancy between the rich and the poor in this country will disappear and also the Hope that people will idolize capitalism as a false prophet.
I give up Hope that chick lit, vampire novels, ill-conceived “erotic” and the like will disappear, en masse, from bookstores. And I give up Hope that publishing will want interesting literary novels instead of the next big thing, whatever it is.
I give up the Hope that fame is the ultimate goal in life.
I give up Hope that fathers who actually take a day-to-day interest in their kids’ lives, and husbands who stay home with the kids will no longer be the subject of “trend” newspaper and magazine articles, but become, instead, part of the norm. And the Hope that men and women will stop circling each other like wrestlers and actually try to really get along.
I give up the Hope that we don’t have to all have Botox and plastic surgery to compete in the market, the Hope that good conversation hasn’t really died a hopeless death, the Hope that people will be nicer rather than meaner.
I give up Hope that examining one’s life will not be seen as a throwback and a weakness but as an important element to becoming a whole, functioning human being.
I give up the eternal Hope that most people won’t see life as drudgery but as journey, no matter how many bad things happen to them. And lastly, I give up Hope that people will no longer wallow in their victimhood but will grow courage and strength from their adversity.
This list of Hopes is a lot harder to give up than, say, eating chocolate or red meat, but my feeling is that if one is going to make the effort to give up something for Lent, it should be a biggee. So, in the next six weeks, every time I find myself Hoping that people will come to their senses and that the world really is on the road to better understanding and awareness; when I find myself Hoping that knowledge will triumph over ignorance, I’m going to stop myself. Quickly. And go and find a chocolate bar and a glass of vino as my penance.
(An earlier version of this essay originally appeared in the Huffington Post)