Oliver Willis

Always Forward: The American Story

“The future doesn’t belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.” – John F. Kerry, July 29, 2004

2004 was the darkest year of my political life. After the disappointment and chaos of the 2000 election and the carnage of the ongoing war in Iraq, I figured there wasn’t any way possible for Bush to get re-elected. When he won in convincing fashion against Kerry, I felt betrayed by America, like the country I knew and loved with all my heart was some strange alien creature I never truly knew.

In 2015 we are in the second term of a Democratic president, who is black. The Supreme Court has just rejected a second constitutional challenge to the sweeping national law he signed that provides health insurance to millions.

In 2004, one of the planks of the Bush re-election effort was his support for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and even though Bush dropped the issue like a hot potato before he was even done being sworn in, it was the principle of the matter. Both parties were opposed to equal marriage, and it was a Democratic president who signed the order outlawing military service by gay and lesbian Americans.

In 2015, the Supreme Court has just affirmed marriage equality in all 50 states and D.C., while a series of ballot propositions preceding it had reversed the tide of right wing initiatives outlawing same-sex marriage. Barack Obama became the last Democratic presidential nominee to oppose same sex marriage and the first to support it.

America is always getting better. We don’t necessarily get it right the first time nor do we proceed in an orderly or rapid fashion, but we’re always going in the right direction overall.When this country began much of its population was disenfranchised, owned as property, or being hunted down and exterminated. Over time we fixed these issues, in sloppy, loud, imperfect fashion, but we moved forward.

I, who am generally optimistic about things, have occasionally been discouraged. The big issues of our time still loom. Poverty, inequality, our environment, education, and much much more and the perennial political gridlock doesn’t help.

But this week in America, where the venomous traitorous confederate flag of racial oppression began to come down in the heart of the south and elsewhere, that was yet another sign that we are moving forward. We are getting better, we who fight on the side of what is morally just and right, are winning the wider war and the individual battles.

Those of us who favor progress over stasis have history on our side, particularly in America, where we have never stood still for very long and only those who choose to remain in history’s dustbin ever stand athwart, yelling “stop.”