'Progress' Achieved?

I think it's funny how many times I've heard the words, "historic moment," in reference to Obama's election as the first black president of the United Stated. A number of US bishops have used the expression to congratulate the president-elect (probably due to the unavailability of other, more genuine compliments). An even greater number of news anchors have uttered the phrase, normally coupled with "progress" and "achievement." This appears to be its fundamental status: an indication of pride that our nation has finally 'achieved' such a level of 'progress' and 'historical momentariness.'

But why is electing a black president an indication of progress? Is it any more an 'achievement'? At the very least, I'll give it 'historic moment' status, but that's it. I'm not content with the notion that simply electing a non-Caucasian national leader is in any way indicative of progress—any more than electing a leader with fiery red hair would be. Who was the last president with fiery red hair? Have we had one yet? Ought we not to aim for such levels of progress as this?

I'm being a little cynical. I do realize that the rights of African-Americans have been jeopardized throughout the course of US history. I am certainly for giving them every equality which they deserve as human beings and as citizens of this country. But I will forever refuse to subscribe to an ideology that says voting for someone who's 'different' is equal to achieving some degree of 'progress' in our political system. Progress ought to be measured not on the basis of appearances, but of actualities. When Obama shows his colors as chief executive of the federal government, I'll be much more willing to hand out titles like 'achiever of progress' and 'bringer-abouter of change.'

But that leads to another question: 'Is all change progress?' In the eyes of 347 electoral votes worth of Americans, the change promised by the Obama camp is nothing but pure, unabashed progress. I think this jump is a little extreme. I think it requires a little more thought.

  1. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - November 9, 2008 at 12:02 AM

    Perhaps you may be cynical, but at the same time you may be right. Have we honestly reached a moment of progress when we still live in a culture of death and dehumanization?

    Dietrich von Hildebrand talks about this in his book "The Devastated Vineyard," where he discusses the fact that we have not progressed considering the multiple forms of dehumanization (abortion, etc.) that many people find to be acceptable.