Why I Gave Up Cynicism For Lent
Twitter and Lent:
According to Twitter, alcohol, social networking, and chocolate topped the list of tweeted Lenten sacrifices for 2017. The Top 100 list included Donald Trump, virginity, and eating live mice, scoring 22, 47, and 88, respectively. Since I’d already given up coffee and alcohol (and live mice for the most part) for the New Year, I decided to do something really hard this time for Lent, especially given the political climate: I gave up cynicism.
Regardless of your religion, letting go of something you hold dear for six weeks can be a useful exercise in discipline and self-awareness, and the season of Lent can provide you with that opportunity. According to Vocabulary.com, cynicism is “the feeling of distrust or that something isn’t going to work out well.” In looking at what’s happening in the U.S. of late, it’s hard to see how things can ever be well again — making this sacrifice extremely challenging.
Plowshares into swords:
Proposing a $54 billion increase in the military budget, saber-rattling, and bombing yet another country while the State Department is being gutted looks like our plowshares are quickly turning into swords. Our planet is already showing many signs of environmental destruction by humankind, yet it appears we’re going to help it along by eliminating research and regulations, while pouring pollutants into our fragile air and water systems.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting only costs $1.35 per citizen per year, but it’s on the chopping block as well. Programs like “Sesame Street,” “All Things Considered,” National Geographic specials, and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will take a major hit, especially in communities that need them the most ― putting Big Bird on the endangered list. Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining life without PBS’s “Peppa Pig;” my 3-year-old granddaughter and I have bonded watching this hilarious show.
I understand that eliminating a large budget deficit is critical for a nation’s well-being and even survival. Achieving a budget surplus, like the Clinton administration did, would be fantastic! (Wars are costly, doncha know?) But the losses in public health, education, international goodwill, safety, privacy, infrastructure, and security, etc. do not a molehill make. They add up to a gigantic mountain of future costly woes!
With all of this and so much more going on, how can I possibly not be cynical? After some deep thought and prayerful reflection (yes I do pray, but to what or whom, I’m not quite sure), I came up with the following:
Americans needed a wake-up call to realize we’ve taken our precious young democracy for granted, and our current leaders are delivering this message in spades. Their actions are doing more to mobilize everyday citizens than I’ve seen in my lifetime (and I’m old!) I’ve learned more about my government in these past few months than I ever learned in school. And like so many who’ve been willing to let others do the heavy lifting, I’ve become active as never before — I even made a sign and marched! It may not seem like much, but I’m meeting many others who’ve also taken their first steps towards activism.
When Easter finally arrives and I get to be cynical again, I’m thinking that instead, I may make a habit of finding the silver lining in every apparent setback. Cynicism keeps us in a demoralizing game of “ain’t it awful” while justifying inaction. I know I can work harder to lovingly inspire reconsideration by those who view the aforementioned changes as positive; after all, aren’t we all God’s children? And embracing faith against overwhelming odds takes courage — isn’t that what the Easter message is all about?
When pigs fly:
Perhaps the time has finally come for those proverbial pigs to start flying — even Peppa.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on April 11, 2017.