This is Progress Too


Following the news about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the hearings with Dr. Blasey Ford has exhausted me. I know it has exhausted many of us.

It has hurt my heart and crushed my soul to read testimony of sexual assault. I know it has hurt millions of hearts and crushed many souls around the country.

It has horrified and sickened me the way human beings treat each other on line and in person. I worry deeply about the seams—discourse, civility, respect, compassion—of our country coming apart irreparably.

Watching this process, I have experienced yet a new level of fear, disillusionment and anger. I always knew there were “bad guys” <cough Ted Cruz> out there. But now I’ve seen what even so-called “good” people will do to get or stay in power—on both sides of the aisle.

I thought we had more courage, but it turns out most of us are blind sheep. I thought we all had more integrity, but it turns out it doesn’t cost very much. I thought we all respected the dignity of human life, but it turns out human life is negotiable.

I never imagined we could fall this far. We still have children in cages and we don’t talk about it or do anything about it. We are experiencing climate catastrophes one after another and we don’t talk about it or do anything about it. School shootings are as likely this year as they have ever been, and we aren’t talking about common-sense solutions. We are losing credibility on a global stage, becoming more and more isolated from our allies and aligning ourselves with dictators, and those with the power to do anything about it are gaslighting us instead.

I look back on pictures of myself just a few short years ago. I look into her eyes and think of how naïve she was. That woman, who existed before #MeToo and still thought men in power largely were supportive of bringing more women into power. That woman, who would’ve never imagined what truly happens on a “casting couch.” That woman, who smiled at cameras, sure as sure can be that the progression of human rights would, for as long as she could see, expand upward and outward. She believed we were living in a world that was becoming more and more inclusive. She believed that the bulk of the hard work had been done by previous generations, and we all got to ride the wave. The majority of people wanted progress, and that was all that mattered, she believed.

Just a few short years ago, that woman had no idea who Harvey Weinstein was. The same is true for many other men in media, business, politics, sports, and entertainment who are “on the list.” That woman from four years ago didn’t watch the Today Show, but she knew who Matt Lauer was and certainly thought him handsome. That woman watched House of Cards and was mesmerized by Kevin Spacey’s acting ability. She thought that the story-line was a bit far-fetched, and the lengths people would go to for power a bit exaggerated, but it was good entertainment. She didn’t watch The Apprentice, because she thought Donald Trump was essentially an asshole. A harmless one, but still. Basically, an asshole. A future president of the United States? Laughable.

Wow, how things have changed. But more to the point: Wow, how I have changed.

I know things today about politics and politicians I never knew before or sought to know. The basic machinations of politics used to be uninteresting, but I now nearly wish I’d chosen it as a life path. Cable news is on in my house far too often, and I subscribe to and read several different newspapers and magazines. I used to not be able to distinguish one journalist from another, but now I can rattle off some of my favorites (and some of my not so favorites).

I used to think 1984 was a fascinating book, but it certainly belonged on the science fiction shelf. Same with Handmaid’s Tale. Surely, human beings would never take things so far. They would never, for instance, put a man on the Supreme Court who has convincingly been accused of sexual assault/attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl. Even in House of Cards, something would happen that would stop that appointment in its tracks.

But, now I see a very strong likelihood that my daughters, and maybe even their daughters, will live most of their adult life in a country where 2 of the 9 justices on the highest court of all the land will stand accused of improper behavior toward women but given the seats despite it. We all know that the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh could likely bring about the reversal or the limitations of Roe v Wade. With a known sexist and racist as our president, we already see more, not less, misogyny on college campuses, workplaces, homes, and of course, our ruling bodies of government.

By so many measures, it feels like we are going backwards. I’ve even said so myself. But let’s look again.

Imagine, for a moment, what must be happening all over the country, maybe even all throughout the world, right at this moment!

Imagine the millions of women who are sitting together, sharing coffee, talking of stories that have happened to them or others. Millions of women, inspired by Dr. Blasey Ford, have likely finally unburdened themselves to someone for the first time. Couples are probably sharing stories and talking about things like patriarchy, and male privilege, and consent—things that were never discussed before, maybe not even known before. This might be causing some conflict, but what better opportunity to grow stronger as human beings and as a couple?

I also imagine millions of men reflecting on their own actions, re-thinking the beliefs and rights they’ve been handed down. I imagine many of them promising to be more, say more, do more. I imagine a new generation of men that is wiser and kinder coming right behind us.

I imagine our invisible but powerful cultural stories—which whisper to us the roles, duties and expectations of women and men—beginning to fray.

And think of this: our nation may be divided, but we all came together to listen to the testimony of a brave and vulnerable women deciding that her story matters. If our country had a face while she spoke, it would’ve been ashen-colored, like that of many of the Senators listening.

So if you feel tired, hopeless, angry, disillusioned, remember:

Progress does not just mean getting what we want or what we think is right. Progress demands never giving up in the fight for what we think is right.

Progress does not mean that everyone is on board for change and the minority just comes along. Progress requires honing our conversational skills so that we can listen to other’s points of view as we communicate ours. Progress means being diplomatic, patient, and compassionate. Progress requires getting out of our comfort zones. Progress asks us to be bigger than our beliefs.

Most importantly, while it is sometimes true, progress does not always mean building on top of previous progress. Progress sometimes means tearing everything down so we can explore the rot at the foundation. The “rot” of patriarchal entitlement, toxic masculinity and misogyny is on full display, and none of us seem to be able to look away. The part of me that is human is disgusted. But the part of me that is soul is unblinking and rolling up her sleeves. It is her, that larger, wiser part of me that I call soul, that I see in the mirror now.

I am awake. I am aware. And I am angry as hell and doing whatever I can to shape the future of our world.

I know you are, too.

So no matter how it may feel, and how hard it is right now, and how bleak it may all seem, please know that this is progress too.

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