The slow, hard but certain road of progress

Posted 8/19/20

In the last year, we’ve suffered remarkable national and global crises – both the unrelenting spread of Covid-19 and a complete reexamination of our country’s long, long record of racial …

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The slow, hard but certain road of progress

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In the last year, we’ve suffered remarkable national and global crises – both the unrelenting spread of Covid-19 and a complete reexamination of our country’s long, long record of racial inequity. These crises have exacerbated a host of other problems the nation had already been suffering, including an ever-increasing political polarization, a rising misinformation industrial complex and an income and education attainment gap that even conservative academics have acknowledged.

In today’s unrelenting news cycle, some new, fresh hell is introduced to us on a nearly nightly basis. Many Americans say they are tired of it. In June, a Pew Research Center study found that 68% of Americans were “worn out” by the sheer number of news stories they encountered every day.

If no news is good news, we aren’t living in good times.

Those of us who are of the progressive persuasion might feel particularly aggrieved by the stagnant nature of the news. (Though it’s worth pointing out that Republicans were more likely than democrats to be tired of the news by about 16 points.) Every day, confronted with inequalities and injustices both great and small, things don’t seem to improve.

Will things ever get better? It’s difficult to be optimistic.

I’m often reminded of one of the foundational beliefs of former president Barack Obama, which was that progress might be slow in coming, but it is inevitable. It was an idea he often repeated in interviews and has since repurposed the sentiment for statements he’s made as recently as June of this year.

In his farewell letter upon leaving office in 2016, he wrote the following:

“[W]hen the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’”

In the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on the progress we have yet to make. It’s good to take the time, regardless of how bad things might seem now, to account for all the progress we’ve made. When Obama first took office in 2008, gay marriage seemed impossible. Obama did not publicly support gay marriage until 2012, while running for reelection. Gay marriage would finally become law of the land in June of 2015 thanks to ‘Obergefell v. Hodges’ in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states do not have the right to prevent same sex couples from getting married.

While it may seem that progress requires dragging some of us by the heels, at times kicking and screaming, into the future, the work is often worth it. Perhaps not tomorrow or next week. Perhaps not without some major bumps in the road. But eventually, it will be worth it.

Pete Mazzaccaro

opinion

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