This weekend, while I was visiting my parents, I asked my dad if he thought that our society was more just than it was 40 years ago. I don’t know why I picked 40 years, but it seemed like a reasonable number.
He responded immediately that it was. Forty years ago, the University of Virginia was all-male and all-white, and the public school system was still recovering from that episode when it shut down entirely rather than accept integration. True, our republic is in danger now, but it is not really in any greater danger than it has been in the past. And the conditions of equality and justice before the law, while far from perfect, are better than they have been. Jose Padilla is the exception now, not the rule.
The rich may be getting richer, and the middle may have greater income volatility, and the gap between rich and poor may be greater… but we are as a nation better off and generally fairer than we were forty years ago. Not everyone has done equally well, and our progress is probably not enough, and it may be that we’re about to slide backwards, but it consoles me to remember that it’s better than it was.