The election of 1968 saw a backlash against the progressive movement begun by President John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier and continued further with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The wars on poverty and racial injustice were drowned out, however, by the war in Vietnam and the violence at home by race riots and assassinations of key figures both in the Civil Rights Movement.
These moments of fear destroyed any notion in people’s minds that the United States was moving forward as a nation. To some, it felt like a step backward. They were afraid. They wanted complacency.
So they turned to Richard Nixon.
Why bring up Richard Nixon in 2016? It’s simple: we are once again facing a backlash to progressive policies put in place by the current outgoing president. In its place, we have a man who promises to restore law and order just as was promised in 1968. The only difference is that the man who promises to keep us safe will do so on the basis of racism and bigotry, and ignores the issue of equity and equality.
Let there be no mistake. The notion of law and order is nothing more than a code word for fear of progress. It is fear of progress for those less fortunate and living in poverty from rising up out of these chasms (normally built by society itself because of things such as systemic racism) and becoming equal to those sitting pretty. We are instilled with this notion that when those below you rise to your level in the social ladder that we have somehow slid down.
Why do these feelings occur? Because people are scared, and, frankly, many of them remain uninformed. So what do they do? They turn towards the person who can find ways to justify their anger and harness it for themselves. It’s what happened in the Election of 1968 and it’s what happened in the Election of 2016. Fear overcame hope, complacency overcame progress, and the need to show there were others less fortunate than themselves in order to make themselves feel safe whenever a change occurs took hold. – Run-on and disrupts pacing, consider truncating
The social ladder in society has enough room for more than one person, and that’s what society seems to forget time and time again. When other people who are not like you rise up this social ladder it does not mean your life is getting worse. It means everyone is rising together, and if we rise together we create a better world for all. No one should be left behind or felt inferior based on any differences we may have.
Today, we seem to have forgotten that. Those at the top of the ladder have apparently gotten there based on hard work while those at the bottom are there because they are lazy or refuse to work hard. No one understands the fact that everyone is born into different circumstances. Never mind the fact that if you are born into poverty you are more likely remain in poverty, while those born into a rich or well off family are more likely to remain that way.
That’s what our country is forgetting at this moment: that feeling of understanding for another human being and knowing that each one of us is fighting their own battle. Empathy now seems taboo, and people aren’t angry because they don’t have equality. They are upset because they don’t have equity. You can give everyone in the world access to whatever they want but if they don’t have the means to reach still makes it inaccessible.
A hand up is not a handout. It is the ability for all of us to rise together to make not just this country, but this world a better place. While it may not seem as if one person fighting for this can make a difference just remember the words of Robert Kennedy in South Africa when Apartheid seemed the foreseeable future for the country:
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
We have the ability to turn this world around and ensure all those around us have the ability to climb that same social ladder to the same height that each and everyone has a right to do. Some require more help than others, but that’s what we are here for, to make this world a gentler place.
So the next time you see someone down on their luck, offer them your hand. Because I know you’d want the same thing, and believe me, we’re all just a few steps away from being in that same position.