Where Are We Going?

“[America’s] journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” What a refreshing thing to hear in a presidential inauguration speech. And from a black president, nonetheless. It seems as if our country has finally achieved that perfect utopia that we have been planning for so long. Finally, we can wake up, and not worry about any infringements on our privacy, or violations of our civil rights. At last, our people are one, united group, where everyone is treated equally.
Then we wake up. What do we find? In the days following a black president being sworn into his second term in office, things really are not the picturesque idyll where everyone frolics around in their matching equality jumpsuits. Instead, almost every group of peoples in this country is worse off than others in one way or another. While that sounds like it might create some sort of twisted level playing field, do not be deceived. It does not. Instead, what happens is that each one of these groups suffers in their own way, some more silently than others.
While it is all fine and dandy that Obama mentioned same-sex equality in his speech, the majority of states still outlaw same-sex marriage. In most states, you can still discriminate for employment on the basis of sexual orientation, and it wasn’t until last year that you couldn’t discriminate for housing. Yet, so many young college students tout what a free and equal country this is.
Another shooting happened in Texas just a few days ago. Why is this sort of thing still an issue? Guns have been around for hundreds of years. One would think that, by now, we could have learned to regulate them better. Yet, more people own guns per capita in parts of Arizona than those same parts in the Wild West.
In fact, more was done in Tombstone, Arizona a hundred years ago to regulate weapons than is done in most parts of the state nowadays. Still though, we talk about America as this progressive country, making huge advances in our society. Meanwhile, the Vatican is one of the only organizations in the world which has acknowledged that Obama’s stance is, “a step in the right direction.”
The president also briefly mentioned climate change, which was very interesting. Whether it was a subtle nod to appease a few of his constituents, or a real indication of a promise he intends to follow through on, the fact remains, little to nothing has been done in terms of addressing climate change. “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, and there was a sudden influx of people caring about drowning polar bears. That only lasted a year or so before the overall feeling of our society was, “Well, we’ve been thinking it’s cool to tackle global warming for about a year now. I guess it’s better. Time to switch our fads to mustaches and Urban Outfitters.”
The problem is there is a very real sense that the country is moving forward into the right direction. While that may be true in some cases (hip hip hooray for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), there seems to be a problem with us accepting forward momentum with completed change. Just because an issue takes a baby-step forward doesn’t mean that the race is over. A similar sort of mood shift occurred during Clinton’s presidency, and just like now, the good was emphasized, and the bad was forgotten.
What this country needs has less to do with people becoming aware of more problems. We already have the ability to see pictures of 1,000 dead Syrians a day. What we need is to remember that thinking things are getting better is not the same as things actually getting better. More so, a small change in the right direction (however big or small you feel it may be), while it should be celebrated, should not be considered the end of the fight.

Jonathan Hilltier is a second- year English major. He can be reached at jonathan.hilltier@gmail.com