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Reflecting on America's change of attitude towards gays and gay marriage, columnist for the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, warned cynics about being too cynical and fatalistic about the future of American progress. No doubt, there's wisdom in that warning. I've often been accused of being too cynical....too doubtful of the alleged good intentions of elected officials....too negative about America's chances to improve it's social contract.
Yes, it is true, as well as a bit surprising, that barriers to granting gay Americans equal justice and treatment before the law have fallen as quickly as they have. Yet, as everyone knows, gays will continue to fight what will inevitably be a long and difficult struggle.
But what about progress in all other aspects of American society?
How have reproductive age women fared over the last decade or so? Can any American, I mean other than those who feel they have a right to determine the choices of others, say that reproductive age American women have made progress in the struggle for female autonomy? Neo-Confederate state leaders are driving abortion clinics, abortion doctors, and Planned Parenthood out of their respective states as quickly as they can by passing extremely invasive and controversial "gotcha" and Catch 22 provisions faster than federal judges can take those cases up.
Is that "shining city on a hill" stuff...or darkness falling on a declining country?
How's the "united" part of the United States faring lately? Immediately following 9-11, our citizens were united as they had not been in a very long time......but what was it we were united over? Payback.....revenge. How long did that unity-in-revenge last? For me it was only a few months as I quickly became aware of the evil plot by Bush-Cheney to lie the country into attacking Iraq.
Some have said we need yet another 9-11 moment to unite us...again. But unlike the historic 9-11, when Democrats, Republicans and independents were as one in "the folks that did this will hear from all of us soon" moment.....another 9-11 type event would only rip and tear us apart even more...the blaming of elected officials taking center stage, something that did not happen after 9-11. One word....Benghazi. So, no...more militarism will not succeed in uniting us. No progress on the "one nation" thing.....instead....regression.
How about standard of living? When you adjust for inflation, American workers have actually not received a raise in the last 40 years.....all profits from productivity gains and expanded markets going to the top 1%. Does anyone think that four-decade long formula will change?
In 1969 the minimum wage was $1.30 an hour. Economist Dean Baker opines ...."If the minimum wage had kept step with productivity growth and inflation it would be over $20 an hour today." Today's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Labor unions, part of the antidote to this very problem.....have been systematically marginalized by oligarchs and those who serve the oligarchs. Labor union participation is lower now than ever. That's not a prescription for progress. Anyone think that very real problem will improve any time soon?
On government itself......does our current Tea-splashed Congress give you confidence that America will be able to deal with what it needs to deal with to keep up in a fast-changing world? Neither do I. Has the U.S. governing system made progress, would you say, in the last two decades? Or has our system of governance....presidency, legislature, judicial branches....become more ineffective and more unlikely to respond to the will of the people...calcified and entrenched now into immovable opposing camps? Progress?
The press? How's our 4th column doing? Have our corporate press helped America make progress? Or have they worked in their "reporting" to help the already-powerful become even more powerful? And if the press have existed these past couple decades to comfort the already comfortable......while turning a blind eye to those without power.....can we still call that progress?
Events and people can change things....I don't deny that. I'm happy to celebrate the recent gains of gay Americans, for just one example. But progressive gains over the past four decades have actually been minimal.....conservative regressive, or status quo, policies, or gridlock, usually winning the day instead.
Year after year after decade after decade of no social or economic or political progress being made is, I believe, taking a harsh toll on our country.
In the future that toll will be even harsher.