Hope is dying.
Millions of tiny cuts at a time – or presidential tweets to be exact.
Hoping that American democracy might survive Trumpism; hoping that some egregious political mishap might bring an end to this presidency – that bald-faced lying, collusion, or obstruction powerful enough to force this Republican-controlled Congress to impeach; hoping that this presidential moment – our national nightmare – isn’t the consequence of our slow and steady capitulation to the evils of capitalism no matter who occupies the White House.
If hoping against hope were actually a thing we might better understand our collective willingness to breathlessly watch (and live tweet) the public testimony of former FBI Director, James Comey on Thursday.
The hearing, conducted by the Senate Intel committee was must-see TV even for those folks who watch TV through social media. For many Americans who hope for a truncated Trump presidency, rooting for James Comey to make a decisive intervention through his Senate testimony is the most hopeful folks have been about the beginning of the end for President Trump.
And yet, rooting for the FBI has been historically counterintuitive for Black America. We don’t have to be “woke” to know that this branch of the “Feds” has been anti-Black for almost its entire institutional history. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has always been our Russia – meddling in our most precious and powerful institutions with impunity.
Former Director Comey is an institutional descendant of J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s diabolical tactics; his insistence on using the full compliment of federal investigative resources in order to infiltrate and dismantle our movements (for civil rights) via COINTELPRO; and the lie that the FBI no longer uses COINTELPRO tactics are the kind of hope-crushing facts that were inescapable on #ComeyDay.
Sen. Risch’s questioning of former Dir. Comey centered on the semantics of “hope” in the statements that President Trump made to Comey in one of their many meetings/conversations. For the senator, President Trump “hoping” that then Director Comey might “let go” of the investigation into former NSA director, Michael Flynn, did not constitute obstruction. That is, a POTUS’ hope was not powerful enough to be a directive for the FBI director. Comey did not seem to agree, but as they played this semantic testimonial game with presidential “hopes,” real hope slowly died – again. The fact that our hopes for #ComeyDay in any way hinged on an exchange about President Trump hoping to obstruct a federal investigation only further underscores the awful irony of our current political moment.
Black people have been keeping hope alive in this American experiment since its inception.
Our enduring, indomitable spirit is the core of the American ideal of freedom and yet, something about this administration’s incompetence and its brazen power grabs; its embrace of racism; its unabashed conspiracies to profit from fossil fuels at the expense of our environment; its deliberate moves to re-entrench the policed-state in Black America; its commitment to delimiting reproductive rights for women; its sense that conflict and global chaos serves their “national” interests…
Something about Trumpism tries to kill the spirit of hope at almost every turn. Here’s to the hoping that our national hope can survive.
Dr. James Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, and is a contributor of MSNBC. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamesPeterson.