This past year we’ve been saturated with rhetoric surrounding “progress.” Trump’s election was widely hailed as a “step backwards,” undoing the years of positive change that allowed Hillary Clinton to declare that “America is already great.” But this semester kitsch wonders: have we really been moving forward? Can we even conceive of history as linear? Jeremiah Kim questions whether the liberal embrace of immigrants is really so “progressive” in his article “Dismantling America’s Immigrant Fetish” (42), and in her review of 20th Century Women, “Why We March” (17), Laura Kern critiques the “progress” made by modern feminism since the 1970s. In “There is Literally No Such Thing as Good English” (56), Jagravi Dave criticizes the demand for standardization in language, while Viri Garcia and Christopher James-Llego poke fun at supposed gains in minority media representation in “Was Cassian Andor Anything Like Me?” (26) and “Final Girl Karla… Sorta” (16).
We question, also, how this discourse of progress has manifested itself in our immediate surroundings—our city and university. Aurora Rojer criticizes incarceration practices in Tompkins County in “Don’t Build a Bigger Jail” (34), Nicole Oliviera interviews CGSU member Sena Aydin about organizing to combat historical and current institutional oppression on our campus (36), and Nadya Mikhaylovskaya questions whether shiny new campus buildings are always better in “The Dark Side of Donations” (32). But progress is about more than just politics. In Andrew Peiser’s “Sisyphean Speech” (11), progress is a personal achievement, and Nathaniel LaCelle-Peterson chronicles a cross-country biking trip in an examination of spatial progress in “Aladdin, WY” (54).
So, what can we truly call “progress?” It is clear that forward movement in time (perhaps just a perceptual fallacy of humans) cannot be equated with improvement. But it is, perhaps, in identifying the present as a series of repeating trends–in looking at the past as one large catastrophe, as the “Angel of History” does for Walter Benjamin–that we can identify the cycles in which we are trapped and from which we must break free (see Daniel Toretsky’s art on page 23). Right now, the future seems bleak and not at all a source of hope with the potential for change. Our only hope for progress, in the sense of real change for the better, lies in confronting the present. What could this “progress” look like? That, dear reader, is for you to decide.
Aurora and Jagravi