A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species
By Marvin Roberson
I was recently talking with a friend of mine about this column, and she challenged my assertion that things are getting better in terms of implementation of progressive values. She acknowledged that in many of the examples I’ve given, things are improving long-term. However, she noted that even if the overall progress is positive, I had to admit that there is regression sometimes.
She noted that “We’re moving in the right direction long term” is of little comfort to those who experience the actual effects of regressive policies. In the current political environment, people are being discriminated against, and rights are being devalued, solely based on color, religion, and gender. Telling folks who are experiencing this bigotry that “It’s OK because things are getting better long term” is not much help.
She’s got a point. There is no question that regardless of long-term outlooks for progressive policies, people get hurt during the “backlash” periods. And this is happening right now. No question about it. People are getting hurt.
However, I’m not claiming that everyone, all the time, in every issue, will experience the benefits of progress. I’m claiming that the overall trend is towards Progressivism, even as there are periods of setbacks.
It is rare that any issue gets set back far enough to erase all progress. In other words, even during periods of setback, the worst of it is not as bad as the worst was in previous times.
Below is a graphic illustration of my point (thanks to volunteer Sarah Tresedder for another wonderful graphic):
In this graphic, the black, line is the graph of actual progress (according to me). The red line is the average.
Note that the average goes up, as I’ve described. However, also look at the peaks and valleys. The high points of each peak get higher each time, as do the low points. In other words, even during setbacks, not all progress is lost. And after the setback, we reach more progressive heights over time.
This is illustrated by my friend herself. She is a highly talented professional, and the CEO of a non-profit. There are setbacks in women’s rights happening right now. No question. However, even during this period, she is still experiencing the progress made during previous periods.
A century ago, she would not have been allowed to vote, much less run a non-profit and supervise a number of male employees. And even during the pushback we’re experiencing right now, no one is suggesting rolling back the 19th Amendment. No one is suggesting outlawing her right to run a company.
So progress that has been achieved is almost never rolled all the way back (I say “almost never” because I never us superlatives...I’ll wait a minute while you think about that assertion).
In addition, it is almost never the case that progress in all areas is rolled back significantly all at once. Partly that’s because each type of progress (gender equity, environmental issues, etc.) has its own constituency and its own enemies.
So almost never is there a monolithic “roll back everything” movement (no matter how much it might feel that way). And the moving target of various constituencies makes that almost impossible, even if it were to come to pass.
To recap: Things are moving in the Progressive direction over time. Everyone experiences at least some of this progress, even during the regressive periods. Even the regressive episodes move in the Progressive direction, over time.
Next time - I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, television has been a bigger part of my life that I like to admit. However, TV provides a lens into how our society looks at issues of concern to Progressives. I’ll talk about that.