This is one of those moments in history where things couldn’t look much darker. It seems like the arc of history is currently bending toward the forces against humanity. We have been here before and have survived. This time it seems as if those who desire to control man and the planet have really got things lined up and heading in their direction. Especially with the ogre of climate change hanging over nearly everything we do.
Never been a time as dire as this you think? Well, Robert Reich would disagree. At a recent graduation address, Reich recalled a time that was looking pretty bleak, but we kept hope and worked and worked and worked and slowly pulled our way out of it. We must do the same again, giving up and giving in is not a solution.
“But many of you are cynical about politics. You see the system as inherently corrupt. You doubt real progress is possible.
“What chance do we have against the Koch brothers and the other billionaires?” you’ve asked me. “How can we fight against Monsanto, Boeing, JP Morgan, and Bank of America? They buy elections. They run America.”
Reich goes on to list many of the dangers his generation encountered when he graduated in 1968. Dangers that included a very popular George Wallace, Nixon as president, racism still quite overt, sexism just being recognized and the ogre of the Vietnam War. Could his generation even imagined the child of an interracial couple being president or the distinct possibility that a woman has a real shot at being the next president? Could they have imagined gays being allowed to marry, or that the college enrollment rates of Hispanics would exceed that of whites? Who would have believed that rivers like the Cuyahoga would no longer be fire hazards and be safe to fish in or that high lead levels in our blood would be nearly eliminated.
These are just a few among the major strides we have made in the past 45 years.
“The genius of America lies in its resilience and pragmatism. We believe in social progress because we were born into it. It is our national creed.
Which is to say, I understand your cynicism. It looks pretty hopeless.
But, believe me, it isn’t.
Not if you pitch in.”
So we stand at another Memorial Day when we rightly take some time to thank those who have fought and died in America’s wars. But also take a few moments to consider those who have fought the fight to make America the reality live up to the America that the founders envisioned. Take a few moments to consider those who have led civil rights marches and those at the very low level who risked their lives to register voters. Think of the women who stood up for their rights at a time when it was very costly. Consider those who have in so many ways stood up against the prevailing sentiment of the time to fight for their rights, for fair wages and working conditions or who left intolerable conditions in a far off land to come and contribute to the country that means freedom.
Also give a few moments of thought to those still working day in and day out to change America for the better. Not elected leaders necessarily, but people who in their daily lives are working to change to bring Dreams to Reality. People like Bill McKibben who works to save us from our own destruction by climate change. But even more at a low level, those working for immigration reform, those working so poor people have food, those working to make sure our children are truly educated.
As Robert Reich stated, things are not hopeless if we all pitch in. So save time for one more thought – what am I going to do to make America the Promise into America the Reality.