It is easy to hyperbolize in today’s society. We live in a culture dominated by sensationalized headlines, relentless advertisers and increasingly daring television programming and movies all with the same agenda in mind – to grab the attention of a decreasingly attentive populace.
As a result, we get click bait, “scientific” stories that lead off saying that we’re close to a cure for cancer, despite the actual body of the scientific literature referenced in the article actually saying nothing of the sort, save for perhaps a mote of promising but far-off progress in one isolated drug trial in a study that utilizes mice.
We get viral videos where the actors contained within rise to exponentially-absurd popularity in a matter of days based on, in the lucky cases, striking a timely nerve through a subject that is felt collectively by many but voiced by few. In the more common cases, they are based on doing something more outrageous, more extreme, more loudly or sillier than anyone else. In either case, the popularity fades just as quickly as it is realized.
Unfortunately, this nationwide lack of an attention span, and a lack of thought about possible long-term consequences of satisfying our short-term cravings for immediate gratification, is embodied by our head of state, who has shown throughout his short presidency that he cares not for thinking before he speaks, nor does he understand the gravity of what he says from one of the most important and powerful pulpits in the world.
It is easy to hyperbolize and proclaim that we have gone nowhere – or even backwards – since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for entire generations of downtrodden with his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial proclaiming a dream of equality. It’s easy to hear the president of the United States proclaim that all Haitian immigrants have AIDS, or that we shouldn’t let people from “shi*hole” countries across our borders, and think we’re actually regressing further away from that dream.
However, don’t let the trending fad of hyperbole, or the bigoted words of one man let you actually believe that.
By no means have we solved racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia or bigotry of any type. These hateful phenomena of the human psychology have only become more apparent in the wake of a political uprising that gave them a platform unlike any we’ve seen in recent decades to spew their rhetoric.
But this does not mean we have not improved from the days in which kids were cursed at and threatened with violence simply by attending a traditionally white school, or were in danger of actual violence should they venture into the wrong part of the wrong town. Remnants of such places may still exist, but they are the shameful exceptions to what the vast majority consider to be the acceptable norm.
We may not have all come together as one people, linking arms as Dr. King dreamed, but our children interact with more people of diverse backgrounds than ever before – each with a leveler playing field to succeed than ever before.
We have not solved our particularly troubling issue of senseless violence – as the 24-hour news cycle will remind you with each and every instance of gun crime in order to drive fear-based attention to their channels – but the rate of violent crime has sharply decreased in this country over the past 25 years, despite whatever agenda-driven lines you may have heard.
We do not share equity in the sense that, perhaps, Dr. King hoped and dreamed we would – as people born of lower socioeconomic status are still inordinately of a minority race or ethnicity, and still have a much lower chance of rising above that economic condition than their brethren lucky enough to be born of higher privilege – but even here we have made progress with expanded social care programs and access to education.
Even as we see increased political strife and scandal going seemingly unpunished, we must continue to tell ourselves – in the year that will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the hatred-fueled assassination that took Dr. King from this world – that we have improved; that we have progressed. That the dream is still alive.