For better or for worse?

Smiley faceThere is a tendency to think our society is more screwed up than it’s ever been, and I understand that as a reactionary response. However, what you are actually witnessing is our society trying to un-screw itself up.

There are a lot of things available to us that disgust us, to be sure. Just this week, it was announced that a 26-year-old woman who has been working for years to exonerate convicted mass murderer Charles Manson would be marrying the scumbag instead. You know, because there is nothing that makes a woman hotter than an 80 year old prison inmate with a permanent swastika scar between his glazed-over eyes. Yet, how many right wingers will continue to cite “the sanctity of marriage” to make their bigoted case against gays getting married.

Then, there is former Jello spokesman and everyone’s model dad, Bill Cosby, who allegedly (probably) raped numerous women over the years, and who will get off scot-free. And what about the uproar over Kim Kardashian’s nude photos and Alyssa Milano Tweeting a breastfeeding pic. Or the sanctimonious shitstorm surrounding Honey-Boo-Boo and her mother’s alleged dalliance with a convicted sex offender. How about the ongoing drama in Ferguson, St. Louis and every other city where there are police officers and black people? It’s all a sign that we’re going to hell in a hand basket, right?

Consider the constant fretting over the fact that more people can name the “Real Housewives” or the Robertson clan than can name their Congressperson or the Justices on the Supreme Court. Or the viral videos in which stupid people are asked questions they should be able to answer but can’t?. We’re all becoming a stupid society, right?

I’m going to sound awfully happy-clappy right now, but I see things a lot differently. We’re actually getting better as a society. The problem is, we have these very loud groups of people screwing things up. On one side, we have the very loud right wing, who want to move us back a century or so, because they liked the way they imagined things were back then. They seem to have no clue that what we were a century ago led us into one economic depression after another, and resulted in the oppression of more than half the population.

On the other side, we have the very loud left wing, who want to move us back about 50 years, because they believe progressives protested conditions and the system spontaneously changed. They seem to have no concept that all of the progressive change that occurred during the post-war period did so because Democrats pushed it through as a series of laws.

It’s time we looked at things differently.

The disgusting crap we see on a regular basis can actually be seen as the product of our society moving forward, albeit in fits and smarts, whereas it could be a smooth transition, if we wanted it to be. First of all, nothing that is happening now is unprecedented, and I mean nothing. To those of you who think Fox News is something unprecedented really need to look up three things on Google. First, look up “yellow journalism, then look up William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, a populist liberal and a staunch right winger. Those who think bias is something new in the press need to look more closely. We have greater access to a wider range of information than ever before, and the only problem we have is, we want the process of acquiring it to be easy and pain-free. We want accurate information to hit us in the face, but that has never happened in the history of humanity. Whether it’s Rupert Murdoch or Ralph Nader, everyone wants to color information so that it favors them. It’s up to us to find ut the truth.

Look at things differently, and you’ll see things more clearly.

Consider the freakish woman who plans to marry Charles Manson. She is not exactly the first to ever want to do something like this. In fact, the practice is so common that it has a name: hybristophilia. Richard Ramirez, also got married while he was in prison, to what some would consider a “groupie” who sent him 75 love letters before she married him. The lovely Ted Bundy reportedly received hundreds of love letters while he was incarcerated. in other words, this is not exactly a new phenomenon. Instead of complaining because Manson was issued a marriage license, we should be praising the openness of the civil marriage laws and shut down those who still complain about the concept of same-sex marriage. When they continue to use the phrase “the sanctity of marriage” to prevent others from enjoying their rights under the Constitution, point to this as proof that civil marriage licenses are not “sacred.”

The brouhaha over Kim Kardashian’s naked ass pictures is also potentially enlightening, if you look at it the right way. There was a time when such pictures would be banned by the government, with both photographer and subject thrown in jail. We have grown up enough that now, the only thing people like this have to deal with is the opinions of people whose opinions they don’t really care about. Likewise, the pictures Tweeted by Alyssa Milano as she breast-fed her child would have,at one point meant jail time, and most certainly an end to her career. Now, again, the most she has to endure our unwanted opinions from idiots who think feeding a child is sexual because it involves “titties.” (Yes, I said “titties,” because that’s about how mature people like that seem.)

Yes, this country has a lot of growing up to do when it comes to nudity and sticking our nose into things that don’t concern us. However, the fact that neither Kim Kardashian nor Alyssa Milano are threatened with jail or run out of town on a rail demonstrates that we are growing up to a certain extent. Do we have a lot more growing up to do? Absolutely. But we’re on the right track, if you look at it a certain way.

It is also possible to see the currently tattering career of Bill Cosby in such a positive light. The fact that these allegations sat dormant for a really long time is extremely troublesome. Also troublesome is the fact that these women were not listened to for many years, until a male comedian brought these allegations to light a few weeks ago. However, the fact that the allegations now have teeth demonstrates that we have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. I agree that we have a long way to go still. But when many of these allegations were made in the 1970s and 1980s, no one was prepared to deal with them, especially when it came to a powerful figure like Bill Cosby. Now, however, it is becoming less possible for powerful people to hide behind their image and avoid detection when they act criminally. It’s too late for Cosby and Woody Allen because of asinine statutes o limitations, but it does show that we have become more receptive of allegations such as these, and that we take women more seriously when they make them. We do have to be careful, because this is a potentially double edged sword, but the fact of the matter is, the pendulum is swinging in the right direction and we need to build on that.

The same is true when you look at the scandal that surrounds Honey Boo-Boo. I couldn’t care less about shows like this. However, I do care about children very much. The fact that Honey Boo-Boo’s mother was allegedly hanging out with a convicted child sex offender, especially one who allegedly molested her other daughter, bothers me greatly. On the other hand, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when child abuse, including child sexual abuse, was highly tolerated in our society. Now, there are signs that it is not, and children will be safer as a result. That is a good thing, and we really have to build on this.

And if you look at something like the problems happening in Ferguson, Missouri (and every other city or town with a police force and black people), you can also see progress, if you look at it the right way. It is never acceptable for a police officer shoot an unarmed citizen. It is also never acceptable for police officers to target people because they happen to be black. But for a long time, such things were tolerated, and most people shrugged about it when they heard about an incident. However, look at the response to this tragedy. No one is shrugging at Michael Brown’s death. The police officer who shot Michael Brown is being condemned roundly by most people for his actions. Not only that, but nearly everyone is calling for an investigation, which is something that would not have happened even 20 years ago. Yes, I know, the right wing is screaming like idiots, as usual, but that usually only happens when they know they’re in the wrong. Do you realize that? Right-wingers only scream when they know they’re wrong, but they want people to think they’re right. Our country is changing for the better, and we need to help it along. And don’t worry about the far right; we’ll never get help from them.

Yes, I know. Some will say I’m too happy-clappy. Perhaps my sunglasses are too rose-colored. However, this is what being progressive is supposed to be about. It’s about looking at the bright side of things and figuring out how to make them even brighter. All of the above are signs that our country is improving. However, it is improving far too slowly. And one reason for that is, we keep allowing the radicalized Republicans to be elected to a majority in Congress and in most states. Republicans don’t want a better life for the people of this country. Republicans don’t care whether we are happy, or whether our rights are protected. They are cynical, and cynicism is never good for anyone.

For better or for worse, we live in this country, and we owe it to ourselves to make it better for everyone. The way we do that is by looking at what happens around us and, instead of reacting to it in a visceral way, looking more deeply and considering the signs of growing pains. Of course, we are more coarse when it comes to our manners and the way we treat each other on the surface. However, we’re also more tolerant of people and their differences. We need to build on that by creating an electoral majority that actually wants to build on that.

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