Maybe it is President Obama's soothing voice as the Commander-in-Caring, or maybe we really are becoming nicer as a nation. But three years into the current decade, it certainly does seem as if the arc of history is bending noticeably toward kindness.
Certainly, there are notable and horrible exceptions—the insanely cruel bombings at the Boston Marathon, and the unfathomable shootings in Aurora, Newtown and Clackamas.
But, there are overwhelming examples of kindness that far outnumber those atrocities. Consider the immediate example of Jason Collins. On Monday, Collins, a middle-of-the-road 34-year-old basketball center, became the first active male professional athlete to come out as gay. The reception was roundly supportive. Both Bill Clinton and President Obama, an avid basketball player himself, publicly endorsed Collins' statements. First Lady Michele Obama joined the chorus with a tweet telling Collins, "We've got your back!" Even Kobe Bryant, who a year ago was fined $100,000 for anti-gay slurs, posted his out-and-out support for Collins; "don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," Bryant wrote, adding the two unequivocal hash tags, "courage" and "support."
Not only is such public support a dramatic about-face from the sweep of hateful measures that led 32 states to ban same-sex marriage in the past decade, it is indicative of the accelerating pace at which Americans are adopting inclusive legislation.
Perhaps this softened attitude is no more noticeable to any other group than the reported 11 million immigrants living within U.S. borders. For decades, especially the past two, they have been subjected to federal and state policies that show little consideration for the struggles these individuals face.
Five years ago, Arizona passed a controversial law that ordered police officers to shakedown anyone who faintly looked like an immigrant. Last year, though, the Supreme Court rolled back major portions of that law. On Monday that court turned away an appeal from Alabama to consider whether states can pass laws making it illegal to harbor or smuggle illegal immigrants, thereby allowing an appeals court ruling that curtailed the law to stand.
Both the White House and Congress are pushing for reforms, likewise—and earning our Glass Slipper this week—the Oregon Legislature also has been taking measured steps towards legally integrating immigrants into the fabric of the state. Although there haven't been any sweeping changes, state lawmakers are using the current session to find tangible fixes to problems that affect the everyday lives of immigrants.
Students who cannot prove legal residency may now receive in-state tuition under a new law signed by Gov. Kitzhaber earlier this month, meaning these kids will pay the same rate as their Oregon peers for Oregon schools. The other notable piece of legislation to emerge this session is the drivers' card bill that on Tuesday passed a final hurdle in the the House and is now headed to the governor's desk for final approval. The new law offers a four-year driver card to people who pass a rules-of-the-road test, but can't prove legal residency in Oregon. It could make life just a little less punitive for up to 85,000 people living here.