Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hold Out Hope for Better Tomorrow

Help me Obi Wan; the future isn't unfolding as promised
As a child of the ‘60s, the future was supposed to be here by now. At least that’s what Popular Science magazine stated about the 21st Century. And it was to have been the start of a promising era. You know, manned space flights to mars. Flying cars. A new millennium featuring a great harmonious society. No hunger, declining disease. Peace on Earth, good will toward men. Blah blah.

Instead we got diabetes, the Y2K computer scare and the Great Recession.  War continues to exist; globally and locally, politically and socially. Subjugation and exploitation, leading to oppression of entire groups of people. It’s still here.

We beat “them” down, take “their” land or other resources, and everlastingly withhold the 40-acres-and-a-mule pipedream. And we still whitewash it all so everyone feels better about what’s being done to those poor people, then insist it’s their fault they’re at the bottom of the barrel.

That's one small step for man, one giant leap backwards.
The pendulum of change is swinging, but not toward societal bliss. Rather, we seem headed for more difficult days ahead. That’s sad, because there was a time when we faced a bright and shining turning point – men on the moon, no more Vietnam, women’s lib, war on poverty, affirmative action – humanity at its most aspirational.

Today, we’ve got white kids rioting about pumpkin festivals, losing (or winning) ballgames, and trashing Michigan ski resorts. Down in Baltimore, some communities of color are cutting up in ways that conjure nightmares of the 1992 “Rodney King verdict” insurrection.

Baltimore, the capitol of one of the wealthiest states in the country, continues to experience, “poverty, lack of jobs [and] disenfranchisement from the political process,” as one Baltimore clergy member said in a news report. The result is a hopelessness that simmers to frustration, which boils into rage – leading to civil unrest.
Much ado about pumpkins

And about our treatment of folks who are disabled, yes, laws and municipal codes helped increase access to buildings and such. But it’s all window dressing. Deep down, culturally, nondisabled do-gooders still operate from a charity perspective.

Few of us are moving and doing from the heart. Instead, we “give” with a heady sense of duty and honor. And the Big G: guilt. Words like empathy and compassion this century take a backseat to mechanical rituals fueled by well-meaning but largely ineffective nonprofits and their funders.

Instead of focusing on the means through which people enter the room (i.e., wheelchairs, scholarships, etc.), we should instead be open to the reality they might just be the brightest one present. View individuals who are different from a place of abundance rather than deficit.

Easy access. Not.
Despite the rather dismal first decade-and-a-half of the 21st Century, remain hopeful. After all, in the last 15 years we saw great things unfold. The United States elected its first president of color. And despite the continued unhealthy consolidation of food manufacturers, more and more people are paying attention to what they eat.

Then there’s the budding interest for increased understanding and cooperation among different groups of people. For instance, in Battle Creek and Marshall, police chiefs are investigating approaches to carrying out their duties in more equitable ways. Translation: they’re noodling approaches to policing that take into account unconscious biases that can surface and sometimes derail even the most seemingly just ways of going about their duties.

Speaking of bias, there’s an increasing sense that the general public is migrating away from overt prejudice and inching toward compassion and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Although the greatest movement is happening in larger cities, smaller ones like Battle Creek are experiencing declining levels of open, hateful prejudice. A little, at least. Small moves, I keep telling myself. Small moves.

Just when Michigan is turning a social justice corner, this...
Of course, no sooner than I write this, antigay billboards go up around my home state of Michigan. One step forward, two steps back.

Somebody once said it is darkest before dawn. Let’s hope in these difficult times we can remember that as we face forward toward the future. 

Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at 4humansbeing@gmail.com.

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