I am not now, nor have I ever been overly optimistic. While I steadfastly remain hopeful, the half-full glass often leads me to consider the other half. Society is just too dragged down by those who are committed to nay saying about every positive development and every creative person. If you want to get a load of what is wrong with every generative approaches to critical problems, or to anyone with progressive ideas, just turn on Fox news or have a gander at many right-wing slanted newspaper columnists.
A steady stream of vitriolic character assassinations awaits anyone committed to solving the nation’s most vexing problems — beginning with the President. The party of “NO” has its followers — lots of them. Just look at the response when the only developed nation in the world without some sort of universal health insurance makes an effort to solve at least part of that problem. But the reaction to the Affordable Care Act would have been the same no matter how the issue might have been addressed. There are those who just don’t want the US to catch up to the rest of the modern world. “Socialism,” they call it. The objection was not really about the bungled rollout, it was the very idea that we, as a people, need to be certain that everyone has some sort of available health care.
The same can be said about education, unemployment compensation, a search for alternative energy, the rights of women to control their own bodies, and a hundred other progressive things that regularly get blasted in an effort to shoot them down.
Despite the dismal swamp in which we too often seem mired, I believe the better side of who we are is a far more accurate description of the national ethos. I have referred before to Rob McCall, a savvy Congregational minister in Blue Hill, Maine. In a recent sermon he listed a few things that give him a solid sense that the arc of history really does bend toward justice. Let me review four of the images on his list.
There was Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old girl shot by the Taliban simply for wanting to go to school, and who has become the angel of a new form of women’s rights by insisting that education in Pakistan must be extended to girls. Hers is a voice that cannot be silenced
McCall suggests that another hopeful sign is the continued passion in nations formerly dominated by European imperialism and who are now defining themselves in new ways, even if the birth pangs make the rest of us uncomfortable. He calls M.L. King and Nelson Mandela the angels of this movement.
He then lists the rise of new forms of spirituality and the decline of traditional religion as positive signs that a new and better world is being born. Hierarchical religious government and doctrinal orthodoxy are fading away as increasing millions of people gather around some form of a yet to be defined “spirituality.”
Finally, “There is a new global awareness that the whole creation is our Mother.” The environmental movement is only one aspect of this phenomenon. While at one level this is an effort to save the planet from destruction and decay, at an even deeper level it describes a new relationship between human life and the rest of the natural order.
I’m sure all of us would add things to McCall’s list. What about human rights for GLBTQ people who have been called abominations for most of their lives, and now find new signs of acceptance?
I predict the recent concern about economic inequality will result in a more just society, and the weariness with war as an instrument of national policy will continue to alter American foreign policy.
We religious types have always known that the major battles in the world are between the forces of justice and the forces of oppression. And now we have come to increasingly realize that there are colleagues far beyond our religious boundaries, and perhaps the arc of history does indeed bends toward justice. If so, being on the side of history is a solid place to stand.