We are no doubt in a time where evil has been on the rise, public discourse has been ratcheted up, demagoguery appears to be a winning recipe for political office, and the divides among demographics in our melting pot are as pronounced as I can remember in my thirty nine years of existence.
The recent tragic hate crimes and attacks on our nation’s politicians are, sadly, not new phenomena; what appears to be different, however, is how “okay” or accepted these acts are (often viewed as our “new norm”) by so many who have retreated to their tribal clans at the peril of our society at large. We have allowed our politics and innate compulsion to bind to our cultural groups, while excluding others, to cause our interpersonal/intercultural relations to either stagnate or begin to regress. However, I’m reluctant to buy into the dismal notion that this is who we are, that perhaps we haven’t made as much progress as a nation as many of us have touted. And I have a good reason to believe this.
We are, comparatively, a young nation relative to many countries throughout the world. We have come from a period at the inception of this country that legalized slavery to now having had our first Black president. We have progressed from a nation that denied women the right to vote to women occupying many of the highest offices in the land, including executive offices in many state. We have progressed from a country that denied Blacks and Hispanics adequate housing, employment, and educational opportunities to seeing many of our young people of color graduate from prestigious colleges and go on to occupy important positions in this country’s greatest companies. I could go on for pages of the countless examples that substantiate the tremendous progress we’ve made, but this is not necessary. It is not important to highlight the myriad ways we have advanced our society to refute the claim that we have regressed as a society due to the most recent divisions that seem to characterize our society — the historical evidence speaks for itself.
The fact of the matter is what we are currently seeing is a mere reflection of what the political and social climate is today. Did you get that? Today. This behavior is unquestionably problematic, but it is a mere snapshot in time of the peak we have reached in our inflammatory political climate. However, it is not reflective of how amazing, loving, compassionate, and truly genuine the majority of Americans are.
America’s true nature is especially on display when natural disasters strike and rip through our communities. What we inevitably see are Americans dropping everything to come to their neighbors’ aid. We see people rallying together, raising money, clothing and feeding those in need. This is who we are. This is reflective of how far we’ve come. This is not to dismiss or understate the egregiousness of hate crimes that still pervade our communities. I would never attempt to whitewash or downplay the obvious strained race relations that exist in our society — these are still areas that need attention and should not be overlooked for the sake of selectively focusing on the progress we’ve made. Having said that, it would be disingenuous if we didn’t acknowledge the steady stream of progressiveness that we have made over the nearly 250 years we have been a country. So, why should we become prisoners of the moment by allowing what has happened in the matter of several months – or even several years – to represent what and who we are as a people, as a society? This would not be rational or accurate. It would be no more accurate than when someone goes through a bad period in their lives (for whatever reason) and point to it as indicative of who they are. Rather, one would insist on being judged based on how far they’ve come in relation to how they used to be x-amount of years ago. When looking at America in this context, it is readily apparent how far we’ve come.
I sympathize with all those who are utterly disheartened by what they see when they turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper and see people committing crime in the name of hatred. I completely understand why many would feel angry, depressed, and even disgusted with what seems to be an acceptable climate of us vs. them tribalism. But remember that this is but a moment in time in the grand scope of our societal evolution. The paramount focus ought to be on the overall progress we’ve made, to remember that our historical evidence shows we are better than this.