Saving Remnant? Or Leading Edge?

I was recently in a meeting where courteous, educated and concerned citizens shared different perspectives on promoting the common good. I couldn’t help wondering whether  gatherings of this sort might be evidence of incremental positive change, or whether, instead, part of what biblical folks might call “the saving remnant”–the relatively small segment of society that keeps the lamp of reason burning through dark ages.

One of my sons recently characterized my reactions to contemporary politics as “bipolar” noting that I alternate between despair over destructive stupidity to hopefulness sparked by emerging signs of rebellion against our “Gilded Age” status quo.

I’ve shared a good deal of the despair on this blog: the evidence of persistent, widespread racism; the efforts to roll back women’s rights; the descent of a once-responsible political party into fantasy, bigotry and anti-intellectualism; the systemic, legal and structural barriers to change; the growing gap between the rich and everyone else; the outsized influence of money in politics….and the list goes on.

When I focus on these aspects of our poltical/social landscape, it’s hard to be cheery and upbeat about the future.

But there are also emerging signs of change–signs that a challenge to the status quo may be in the offing. And there’s the fact that American history is filled with examples of such change.

Survey research provides evidence that younger Americans are less bigoted, more inclusive and far less in thrall to religious fundamentalism than their elders. The  movement to raise the minimum wage is gaining traction. The dramatic change in public opinion on same-sex marriage should be a wake-up call to the proponents of all sorts of “traditional” stereotypes, not just of LGBT folks, but of women and African-Americans.

Rush Limbaugh continues to lose market share. Despite the anti-science posture of so many lawmakers, recent surveys show that 80% of Americans accept the reality of climate change and want government to do something about it.

And all around the country, people are taking to the streets to demand change. It isn’t just Ferguson and Baltimore protesting police excesses; it’s fast-food and hotel workers and Walmart employees demanding fair treatment and pay, and Moral Monday activists reproaching state-level lawmakers’ disregard for the common good (shades of the Social Gospel!). In Washington, it’s bipartisan recognition of the need to reform America’s criminal justice system. Here in Indiana, it was the overwhelming pushback to passage of RFRA (followed by the “Pence Must Go” signs still popping up all over the state).

While social media and the Internet can be used to create a bubble that reinforces our pre-existing world-views, they can also inform us of injustices we wouldn’t otherwise  know about. They can connect us with others committed to change. The ubiquity of cellphone cameras allows documentation of events that were previously “he said/she said.” The same technologies that disorient and threaten my generation are allowing those who’ve grown up with them to create new kinds of communities.

The structural barriers to change are formidable, but entrenched privilege has been toppled before. I’d say it’s 50/50….and my mood at any given time depends upon which 50% I’m looking at.

Saving remnant? or Signs of emerging social change?


  1. It is nice to feel hopeful. But I have been smacked down before. I LOVE to listen to Bernie Sanders speak of his vision for our nation. But I was in love with George McGovern too. He lost 49 states to Richard Nixon. I still don’t understand how the war hero lost to the draft dodger during a war. It is all so strange. Lets hope the good 50% can take root.

  2. Sheila; I join you in being diagnosed as bipolar but consider it an involuntary reaction to current conditions in this state, this country and the world. I agree that the younger generation is more accepting but are they acting on their acceptance when and where it is most needed? I would like to know the male/female ratio regarding the acceptance…and the action/inaction on vital issues. Sad to say (admit); it is still basically a “man’s world” we live in. The GOP would have all men carrying clubs and dragging women by the hair to their caves to see to their needs…and wants. With Pence paying to improve his reputation – along with the damaged reputation to the state of Indiana caused by him – my 50% is on the negative side today.

    I haven’t read the full reports regarding the two “new” interstate and road traffic regulations because I don’t want to know the mentality behind what they consider change and what most of us have known for many years. The right lane is for slower drivers – who didn’t know this? And the other lanes for “speeders” does this mean traffic traveling the legal speed limit or actual speeders as the accepted term implies? The new (and how much is this costing the state in tax dollars) flashing yellow arrows telling people making left turns to yield to oncoming traffic. Who doesn’t know this? If this is progress; I’ll take the status quo.

  3. Patmcc: Your comment about Sanders and McGovern (to which I would add FDR) is appreciated. Like you, I don’t understand the penchant for voting Republican. Would someone explain it, please?

  4. I wish I thought that Bernie Sanders had a good chance rather than his being a lone voice crying in the wilderness. His vision and ideas are precisely what we need.

  5. “But there are also emerging signs of change-signs that a challenge to the status quo might be in the offing”

    I’m afraid that much of what we see as positive is caused by a FALSE NEGATIVE:

    It’s a result that appears negative when it should not. A good example is a result from a test designed to detect cancer returns a negative result but the person already does have cancer.

    Unfortunately, many of our standard ways of testing the direction of the status quo are outmoded and dangerously ineffective.

  6. I’ll wager that the looming threat is from the vast and growing number of American adults of all ages from a variety of educational and economic achievements who continue to be duped into believing, both collectively and individually, that by not voting they have found their voice.

  7. “While social media and the Internet can be used to create a bubble that reinforces our pre-existing world-views, they can also inform us of injustices we wouldn’t otherwise know about.”

    This is my uncertainty too. I used to feel like a lone wolf but increasingly less so. Have I just found my tribe or are their more lone wolves to run into now?

    I have the sense of impending revolution. Like most revolutions a great awakening of possibility. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    Obama ran in 2008 on “hope and change”, a slogan that both got him elected (of course Sarah Palin helped) and attracted great diresion. But it gave me, well, hope for change, but also launched the great backlash from folks stuck in the past feeling the threat of the hopes of others and the possibility of real change.

    They roared; we cringed; tempus fugited; we reconsidered; they shrunk intellectually; now I sense are slinking away diminished to actual size and weight. Or am I just a victim of my hope?

    No matter. My actions remain the same. Trust the Constitution, it’s ours not theirs. Trust democracy, in the end it’s not for sale. Trust knowledge, it lights our way.

  8. Dear Miss Brooks. Honestly I do know the differences among there, their, and they’re as you taught me. At least my brain knows. I blame my old fingers. They’re nearly incorrigable.

  9. Patmcc – Well lets face it Nixon Lied -Peace with Honor – and all that. The real torpedo in McGovern was selecting Thomas Eagleton as VP and then Eagleton’s withdrawal. This did not inspire much confidence in McGovern.

    I am very hopeful Bernie Sanders can come from behind and win the Democratic Presidential Primaries. Sanders views, positions and credentials are well established. Sanders would demolish any of the Republicans in a debate.

  10. Pete; I wonder how many of us know who Miss Brooks is in your comments. I do, and she certainly taught me better than I have shown in many of my comments. Walter Denton would probably receive a better grade on an essay than I could hope to get.

  11. JoAnn I am in awe of folks who are multilingual or can write flawlessly. My only face saving comes from trying to sell that I am using those brain parts for other purposes and hope the conversation veers before anyone asks for what purpose. ‘Tis a narrow trail we tread.

  12. Patmcc – I was volunteer staff for both the McGovern campaign and Obama’s several campaigns. While I won’t discount Louie’s observation about the botched Eagleton issue, the truth is that Eagleton was the symptom. McGovern’s campaign was the most disorganized, ineffective mess that I have ever seen.

    In contrast, Obama had his “A” team here for the 2008 primary and between the enthusiasm over the first African-American (or mixed race) President and the exceptional organization set up by his campaign, I was convinced early on that Indiana would go for Obama in 2008. In 2012, the organization was there, but the “first” factor was gone, so even Obama’s campaign knew it wouldn’t repeat its 2008 feat.

    One of the biggest problems Sander has in winning is the belief by most people that he can’t. Still, his presence can have a great effect on changing the conversation from “how much can we cut taxes and hate government” to “how do we fix income inequality” among other substantive issues.

  13. Consider the media news programs: every night they are forced to explain, as if it were knowable, why the weather, the stock market, and sports teams did what they did. In other words analyze chaos. Chaos being what statisticians view as what must be accepted but cannot be explained by our current level of insight. In other words what cannot be predicted with any certainty.

    Entertainment not education.

    Of course another eyeball attractor for newsies is politics. Equally chaotic but can be simplified for retail consumption by using terms like right and left. Even the simplest among us can grasp two mutually exclusive choices.

    Entertainment not education.

    I am politically what I believe works towards what I want the world to be like. So does everybody who cares. Does that make me, us, simply right or left?

    Way more complex than one of two choices. In fact, it’s taken me a lifetime to explain it to myself.

    Turn off entertainment. Turn on education. Interact openly with others. Separate chaos from control. Learn from mistakes. Don’t be a label.

  14. Betty–Karl Rove’s strategy (besides just out and out cheating) is if you can’t get people to vote FOR your candidate, discourage them from voting. That is what is going on with the ‘I agree with Bernie Sanders, but he won’t win’ meme. Stop it–unless you LIKE working for Rover for free. As far as ‘resistance is futile,’ the same thing was said about Obama.

  15. Flunk Ms. Brooks, Pete. Don’t back down. Blame it on auto-correct. Never let ’em see you sweat!☺

  16. Aside: From the very first time I heard her voice, I always considered Eve Arden to speak what I considered to be ‘American’ English. Today, as evinced by Bill Meher, you have to have a British accent to deliver pizzas. Shows just what we think about each other.

  17. @ Girl Cousin: from Betty and AgingLGrl – “Bernie, Bernie, He’s our man! If he can’t do it, nobody can! Go, BERNIE, Go!” There now! Is that better?

  18. I saw a comment yesterday about Bernie being a communist. Good grief, those people have no clue what a communist is, or a democratic socialist which is what Bernie is! ha.

  19. AgingLGirl; the greatest problem with those people is they don’t know what a Republican is!

  20. JoAnn, it’s whatever THEY believe, not anybody else. Right or wrong, doesn’t matter. Their minds are made up. Idiots.

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