We Are Better Than This by Martin Lockett
We are no doubt in a time where evil has been on the rise, public discourse has turned hostile, 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 all of my thirty-nine years.
The recent tragic hate crimes and attacks on our nation’s politicians are, sadly, not new phenomena. What does feel different, however, is how 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 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 some of us thought.
We are a young relatively nation compared 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 electing women to many of the highest offices in the land. We have grown from a country that denied Blacks and Hispanics adequate housing, employment, and educational opportunities to one in which young people of color graduate from prestigious colleges and go on to occupy high-level positions in distinguished companies. I could provide countless more examples to substantiate the progress we’ve made, but this is not necessary — the historical evidence speaks for itself.
The fact of the matter is that what we are currently seeing is a mere reflection of today’s political and social climate. Did you get that? Today. While it is unquestionably problematic, it is a snapshot in time — the peak of the current inflammatory political climate — and 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, collecting clothing, and feeding those in need. This is who we are, and reflective of how far we’ve come. This is not to whitewash or downplay hate crimes that continue to pervade our communities, exacerbating already strained race relations. Having said that, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the steady stream of progress made over our country’s nearly 250 year history. We should not become prisoners of the moment by allowing what has happened in a matter of several months — or even several years — to represent what and who we are as a people, as a society. That is neither rational nor accurate. It would be no more accurate than to point to a temporary bad period in someone’s life (for whatever reason), as indicative of who they are. An objective judgement is based on how far someone has come in relation to where they started. 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 a rash of crimes committed in the name of hatred. I understand why many feel angry, depressed, and disgusted by a climate of tribalism. But we must remember that this is a moment in time in the grand scope of our societal evolution. Our focus ought to be on the overall progress made; and the historical evidence that shows we are better than this.