The arrow of history: where are we headed?

As we proceed from the old year to the new, it would seem that most of us are experiencing the world as going backwards.

According to an October 7th AP story reporting on an AP-NORC poll, “Few say US going in right direction.” “Only 24 percent of Americans are confident about the future of the country.”

Direction” — for many of us , it seems almost inherent in the nature of things that history has direction. It’s an arrow propelled by the pain and suffering of the past toward a better future.

Perhaps this view of history derives from the logic of how we operate every day, every moment as individuals: from problem (hunger, say) to solution (the satisfaction of eating).

Historical progress is hardly a straight line. There are long and terrible setbacks such as the so-called “Dark Ages,” or the world wars and holocausts of the last century. Historical progress can be characterized as a long, even an interminable struggle. But the direction remains clear. It’s what motivates us and defines our role in the struggle. In the long run, the arrow of history flies toward progress. This direction is virtually synonymous with civilization.

Certain specific directions are well known and widely embraced: toward human rights and equality of all human beings, including minorities, women, the poor, whether expressed as civil rights or economic opportunity. From slavery (in forms more and less obvious) to freedom.

From rule by one or the few to empowerment of the many. From absolute monarchy or dictatorship to democracy.

From more violence to less. From more to less war. From fear to freedom from fear.

From ignorance to knowledge.

Probably many more of us than those who call themselves “progressives” hold this vision of progressive history as self-evident, in the spirit of our country’s founding documents.

And from polls it would seem that it’s hard for us, probably the majority of citizens, to see–to imagine—Republican “victories” any other way than as setbacks from which, in some cases, generations may suffer.

Clearly Trump supporters and other conservatives see it differently. What we see as destruction, they see as constructive, as progress. But even they tend to express their view of progress in negative ways, as “rollback” or “repeal.”

We the majority admittedly have a hard time understanding how greater concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, how a return to pre- Roe v Wade abortions or to pre-Obamacare healthcare, how resumption of the cold war, how continued proliferation of guns, how installation in schools of religious versions of evolution on equal footing with the best efforts of scholars, how the revival of white supremacy—how a future including all or any of this adds up to a bright future.

Clearly we need our imaginations expanded. Perhaps even loyal Trump supporters would agree that they could do a more convincing job of depicting the attractions of a conservative future.

Perhaps someone could in a My View take time out from gloating or mocking “hateful” liberal whining over the loss of the election and explain where Trump supporters see the world headed.

An attempt to educate about the conservative vision of the future would have to do a better job than one such attempt I received in an email a while back from a Trump supporter who kept talking about “making America great again” by, for one thing, repealing Obamacare and returning to a time when healthcare wasn’t so expensive. But although I repeatedly asked for the dates of this great period of healthcare greatness, he either could or at any rate would not supply them.

Come to think of it, Trump Himself hasn’t, that I recall, actually named the period of American greatness he would return us to.

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