Redefining the Word Progressive


What allows us, as human beings to communicate, is our mutual understanding and agreement of what things are called. A common language makes that possible. If I may be somewhat philosophical, there’s no such thing as a tree. A tree exists because we human beings accept it to be the word associated with something that grows from the ground with a trunk, branches and leaves. Even the words trunk, branches and leaves are made up words, we all accept these words, comprised of letters, in order to give us the same image of what that thing is. Another example is the solar system. The planet Saturn is named after the Roman G-d of wealth and agriculture. We accept that because we need to call it something but it could just have easily been called a tree. There’s nothing scientific about it whatsoever.

That brings me to the topic of words in general. Just because Webster decides to add a word to the dictionary, doesn’t mean we have to accept it. I recognize that they have power to do that but we have the power to ignore it. For example, the word “ain’t” as defined in Dictionary.Com is “nonstandard except in some dialects. Contraction of am not: are not; is not.” So ain’t is an accepted word in the dictionary. However, ain’t can be considered slang and a word that educated people should never use. It’s no different from saying, “I should have went.” It’s poor English.

That brings me to the word progressive. As defined in the dictionary, as an adjective, progressive is “a group person or idea favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” As a noun it’s defined as “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new liberal ideas.” Let me be clear, that the word progressive in no way indicates better, improvement, or progress, necessarily.

For example, while the legalization of marijuana is considered “progressive,” I would argue otherwise. Many if not most of the people I grew up with smoked pot. I wasn’t a pot smoker. Never tried it. But so many I knew who did, ended up doing harder drugs; coke, mushrooms and or popping pills; Valium, Tuinal, Seconal. Marijuana is undoubtedly the entry point to harder drugs. People who have glaucoma or cancer should be prescribed medical marijuana. But legalizing a drug that will predominantly hurt those in the lower socioeconomic parts of our society and increasing the number of people addicted to drugs, isn’t progressive. No one should be locked up for smoking pot, that’s progressive, but hefty fines should be levied.

Another example of “progressive run amok” is New York Country district attorney Alvin Bragg instructing prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for crimes as serious as robbery, assault and gun possession. He has since clarified his position but clearly this was viewed by some on the extreme left of being a progressive policy. Never did it take into consideration the fact that this would make the streets far more dangerous. Crime does pay with rules like that in play. Is it any wonder why crime continues to worsen in NYC and other cities such as San Francisco? Criminals no longer are concerned with facing jail time for walking into a store and stealing whatever they like. If they don’t get caught, they scored and if they do, they walk. You don’t have to be in law enforcement or the DA’s office to understand the ramifications.

Pretending that all people are essentially good and that law enforcement is the reason for the ills of society is not progressive. It’s just the opposite. It’s placing blame on those who are charged with protecting the innocent. Most police officers serve and protect as their oath requires. That is not to say that cops who go rogue, shouldn’t face consequences. Of course they should. Derek Chauvin, convicted murderer, and now the three ex-cops who failed to protect George Floyd have been held accountable. That’s progress. That’s the way our justice system is supposed to function. But guilty until proven innocent as it relates to law enforcement, is not progressive.

Progress must be something that truly benefits the majority of people in society. But the very word progress or progressive, often depends on personal beliefs. Let me explain the difference. Everyone would agree that a cure for cancer is progress. But unlimited access to abortion, is divisive at best. Even those who favor access to abortion might agree that partial birth abortions should be banned. Progress is not an absolute. One person’s progress is another person’s regress. This is a debate that is ongoing and not clear cut, even for those who consider themselves to be progressive.

In the US political arena, one side is considered enlightened or progressive (Democrats) and the other regressive (Republicans). But that’s an unfair assessment. Not everyone wants to move in the same direction. That doesn’t make them wrong or a bad person. Progress is often unclear or simply a matter of opinion. Should athletes born male be allowed to compete against biological females? Some people might consider that progressive while others might consider it unfair to women. This is an ongoing debate. But just to be clear, when someone refers to themselves as progressive, it doesn’t necessarily mean enlightened or on the correct side of history. All it means is they want change but not necessarily progress.

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