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Hungry Hungry Hopers

Stepping out of today’s thoughtstream, I looked up the definition of “hope”. Wielded by so many candidates and agitators, I wondered if its meaning had changed. Here’s

intransitive verb
1: to cherish a desire with anticipation
2 archaic : trust

transitive verb
1: to desire with expectation of obtainment
2: to expect with confidence : trust

synonyms see expect

Hope is attached to an object, a desire. It is not vague optimism. Hope implies a goal or outcome in mind. We do not just “hope”, we “hope for”.

It sounds like “want” to me. It’s want draped in moralistic robes. To say, “I want a good job,” comes across as selfish. “I hope for a good job,” masks the selfishness. It’s not so directly animal and grasping. Perfectly suited for rhetoric which appeals to our base nature without confronting the rabble with our own grubbiness.

Using religious context, “I want salvation,” sounds too demanding. God is not a retail outlet. Salvation must be hoped for because it is not ours to deliver.

We hope for things we cannot give ourselves. The language implies a powerlessness in the seeker. Preachers and politicians are agents of Greater Powers. They mediate our wants into hopes addressed to something outside ourselves. If the preacher is a good pitchman, and if we believe we are on the righteous path, we can expect our want to be fulfilled. We can hope.

I don’t know if the meaning of “hope” has changed. Perhaps it is now part of the postmodern vocabulary, where it means whatever the listener takes it to mean.

I hope not.