Hope vs. cynicism

Jeff vonKaenel

I don’t know about you, but I bounce between hope and cynicism on a daily—and even hourly—basis.

There is so much to be cynical about. The buying of this election, for example. Rich folks, along with corporate and union interests, spending hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on untruthful television ads. The unbalanced news coverage on Fox News. The banking, oil and pharmaceutical industries, which have been able to rig the political process so that stealing becomes legal, because they wrote the law. Yes, there is much to be cynical about.

But then I spend a few minutes with the AmeriCorps workers at Sacramento Habitat for Humanity. They work so hard and for so little just so that they can give back to the community. Or the young soldiers who sacrifice so much, and even sometimes their lives—they inspire hope in me, too.

The hopeful part of my brain and the cynical part keep fighting for dominance. While I am disgusted with the teachers union buying school-board elections and fighting to keep incompetent teachers on the job, but at the same time, I am inspired by my daughter’s high-school drum-line instructor, Mr. John Ousley, who works an unbelievably large number of unpaid hours, runs fireworks sales and fundraisers in his spare time, and clearly loves the kids.

So should I be hopeful or cynical about education? Mr. Ousley’s underfunded but passionate drum line or the cynical teachers union? My brain cannot decide.

Can we save the planet from climate change and all of the environmental disasters that it will bring? The economic might of the oil lobby is impressive. The willingness of knowledgeable, smart people to choose short-term profits, destroying the planet as long as they get a big paycheck, is beyond belief. But so are the people who work at nonprofits and government services, willing to sacrifice so much to save the planet. Hope or future disaster? I do not know.

As a newspaper publisher, I meet hundreds of small-business owners. As a group, they are very inspiring. A new restaurant owner loves food and hungry people. An enthusiastic car mechanic wants to fix people’s cars. A bookstore owner wants her books to engage readers. These small-business owners often risk everything to succeed. There is a love and passion in what they do. But then there are the Wall Street people who take so much, do not care about the end product, and ask others to take the risk for their gain. The Bain Capitals of the world.

So, hope or cynicism? Which voice will win out? While I fear the cynics will win, I’m joining with the millions who have decided that hope is better than cynicism.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.