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What I’m about to share may seem more reverie than realism. But Progressive and other activists know it well. It’s just an unconventional approach when applied to ‘politics’ with a capital ‘P.’


Let’s face it: we need an alternative to Trump’s politics of division. In The Soul of America, historian Jon Meacham writes about “winning the battle for our better angels.” Trump never fought that battle. But I’m more concerned about those of us who’ve been drawn into Trump’s muck. Our political feet are mired in anger and outrage. We need to something more, something different, and—most of all—something uplifting.

Rather than play point-counterpoint with Trump and his kind, something called ‘Hopepunk’ offers an alternative. Alexandra Roland introduced the concept in a 2017 Tumblr blog. Roland did so by writing just nine words: “The opposite of grimdark is Hopepunk. Pass it on.” Those two sentences hit a nerve (Google search, 7/24/19, 62,500 hits).

Aja Romano calls Hopepunk ‘weaponized optimism’—the unwavering belief in people, what ‘a people’ can be, and what can happen when people join together and lead for the public good.

Aja Romano calls Hopepunk ‘weaponized optimism’—the unwavering belief in people, what ‘a people’ can be, and what can happen when people join together and lead for the public good. Sound familiar? Of course. Although the term is new, the underlying thinking and practices are not. But while Hopepunk is visible in initiatives and projects across the country, it isn’t a national political force—at least not yet.

Alexandra Romano

Alexandra Romano

It could be. In what Roland calls “the world of brutal cynicism and nihilism,” rebellion is required, and rebellion begins with #resistance. Weaponized optimism is a robust response to the dark recesses of today’s politics—dangerous as they are to civility, culture, and commonwealth.

Hopepunk’s effusively positive mindset and worldview propel uplifting action. Citing Rowland, Romano writes that “it’s about standing up and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about standing up for other people. It’s about DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”

Practicing Hopepunk DOESN’T require critiquing, finding fault with, or calling out others. That means it’s not primarily about responding to Trump and his kind. Hopepunk DOES require engaging in persistent and constructive public action. Romano identifies five parameters in that regard (italics added):

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  • A mood of consciously chosen gentleness.
  • Building positive social systems.
  • An emphasis on community-building via cooperation.
  • The fight to achieve human progress is permanent, without end.
  • Kindness and optimism must never waiver, even in the middle of a fight.

Why do I value Hopepunk?

First, I can use a big dose of it myself. Hopepunk represents a personal growth opportunity.

Second, Hopepunk isn’t something that needs to be learned. It’s already in us.

Third, many colleagues I know believe in and practice Hopepunk. Those colleagues are less likely to engage me in a flailing-hands discussion of Grimdark (Hopepunk’s dystopian counterpart) and are more likely to invite me to join them in making a positive difference.

Fourth, Hopepunk invites us to walk the path traveled by historic leaders, such as Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hopepunk isn’t reserved for a heroic few, though. It’s accessible to us all.

Finally, Hopepunk is an effective counter-punch to Trump and his cronies—including some of your co-workers, neighbors, friends and, perhaps, family members. They see Progressives as Grimdark because society is doomed if we succeed. So? Succeed! Focus on building an ever-hopeful world and refrain from getting caught in Trump’s trap.

There is a proviso, though. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy,” writes Gretchen Brown about Hopepunk, “and it doesn’t mean it’s always safe.” But Hopepunkis one way to activate our ‘better angels,’ as Meacham puts it, both individually and across America. We need that badly.


Is Hopepunk quixotic? Not a chance.

Frank Fear