Progress is such an interesting word. It is supposed to have a positive meaning. Sometimes, it does. For example, imagine your child working with determination on a long-term school project.
“You’re making such great progress,” you would tell your child. “Don’t give up.”
The dictionary defines progress as “the process of improving or developing something over a period of time.” Based on that, it feels as if we have been using that word more frequently than we should. Beyond the amazing progress we have made with technology, I am instead referring to the social “progress” we like to think we have made but, clearly, improvement and development still have a long way to go.
Where’s the progress for racial and religious minorities?
The issues that led to the #blacklivesmatter movement itself are good examples. At the time, people attempted to explain to me that it was acceptable for cops to shoot black men because they had done something to cause it. Despite what was happening, we had made so much progress, they said. That was until we started seeing videos of shootings that showed black suspects had, in fact, been cooperating, including the September shooting in Tulsa.
I shudder to think what it would be like to be pulled over in an isolated area in fear of what might happen because of my skin color. I can’t imagine this is the progress African-Americans have sought.
Of course, the black community has company in being negatively singled out. Muslims have been profiled and targeted at least since 9/11, so much so that Donald Trump referring to President Barack Obama as a Muslim managed to fire up enough people to grant him the Republican nomination.
That same man — you may know him as The Donald — didn’t do much to embrace the Mexican community when he suggested they were sending their rapists and murderers to the U.S. in droves. His solution: a wall along our southwestern border, which is something I’m sure would have underwhelmed Ronald Reagan during his days as president (more on that below).
Progress misses LGBTQI+, female communities
This same supposed progress has harmed more than racial and religious minorities. Despite major movements forward as our nation finally accepts same-sex marriage and all that comes with it, the gay community has once again found itself unnecessarily targeted by laws focused on opposing gay rights or not recognizing transgender rights. Further, as North Carolina’s bathroom bill passed into law and drew most of the headlines, we must remember that this opposition to basic human rights began with then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whom you should know now as Trump’s vice-presidential choice.
We take one step forward but two steps back. And we call this progress.
Do we also call it progress when we accept Trump’s attitude toward women as merely something guys brag about around other guys? Do we refer to it as an improvement from the past when we turn our backs on the number of women who have come forward to talk about how it was more than just locker room talk? If it was truly unsettling back then, then it has to be unacceptable now.
Is it even progress for the Republican Party?
Speaking of Trump, his campaign slogan itself seems to indicate an unwillingness to accept progress as a nation. This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the idea of America’s lack of greatness has gained popularity, but at what expense do we intend to “improve” our nation?
The Republican Party has always bragged about how it is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. Have we made progress in how the GOP’s elected officials file and support legislation that would be beneficial to minorities or even to the socio-economically poor? The numbers don’t seem to bear that out, and perceptions certainly don’t.
If Trump is the torchbearer for what the Republican Party stands for in 2016, my guess is that Lincoln and Reagan would be disgusted. Whether it was Reagan saying, “tear down this wall,” or Lincoln insisting that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” it seems as if both would oppose a wall that keeps out immigrants and rhetoric that seeks to demonize minorities. Republicans must ask themselves if they truly believe they made the right choice when it came down to their nominee. (The second choice appeared to be Canadian-born Ted Cruz, whose claim to fame includes leading a dangerous effort to temporarily shut down the federal government so he could make a point.)
Even the unwillingness to hold a hearing on replacing a Supreme Court justice has surpassed anything that has happened in the past, and it appears the GOP-led Congress will sit idle until after a new president is in office.
We call this progress?
It concerns me that we even have to discuss these matters at a time when we have made so much real progress with technology and, at least temporarily, with social-awareness issues.
Our presidential candidates may have erased the notion of a potential continuation of progress, but at least the opportunity to prevent the nation from moving backward remains.