Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Anna Quindlen gets it


Anna Quindlen has a great column this week.

I used to work in a place where someone used to leave white supremacist literature around. I never found out who it was, but it was amusing to me, rather than scary or sad. It's like encountering a Holocaust denier, or a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Really? You honestly believe that? OK, whatever you say, just keep it to yourself. You're headed for the ash heap of history, pal.

The battles are over, and the forces of tolerance have won. Not every battle on every battlefield has been completed, but the arc of history is on our side. It's like we're the Union Army in late 1864, or Barack Obama for the last 6 weeks, or a 12game lead with 20 games to play. It's not over, officially, but everyone knows where we're headed.

Quindlen's piece makes the point that, 50 years from now, historians will marvel at the fact that it took us so long to allow people to marry those they wish to marry, the same way we marvel at how long it took women and minorities to achieve full rights as citizens. Those battles aren't over, either, but as younger generations come up through the ranks, it will seem silly to not have equal pay for equal work and generous maternity and paternity leave, and recruiting based on ability and not race.

I'm seeing that happen, slowly, in my industry. My company wouldn't dare restrict maternity leave-they'd lose half their work force, maybe more. And I fully expect to have women as supervisors within the next decade.

First, the trendsetters will do it, and conventional wisdom will say "you're crazy". Then, the tremendous advantages will be seen, as the best and brightest flock to the forward thinking companies and states. Then the backward ones will realize, gee, we better change, too, or we're going to be left behind.

The late William Buckley said that National Review magazine was meant to sit athwart history, yelling "Stop!"

The problem with that is that, eventually, history runs over you.

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