You hear it all the time. I catch myself doing it on occasion myself. I am talking about idolizing the past and lamenting how bad everything is now. It may be fun to chat about the good ol' days but they are largely a myth.
You know, the times when men where men and the women damn glad of it! The great times when you all went to school, everyone was constantly respectful and well-behaved and cared only about learning. Yeah, right! The great times somewhere in the past when politicians really listened and worked for us. The time when there weren't all the problems with drugs and crime. Could we all stop eating from our bowls of Dreamos and focus on exactly when was this Golden Age?
Was it in the early 1900's when capitalism was not at all controlled, child labor was common, six percent of the society graduated from high school, kids used to picket to have the right to attend school, railroad workers would lose an arm on the job and receive five dollars and their walking papers, monopolies controlled most of the economy and life expectancy was in the mid-fifties? No, it couldn't have been then.
Then it must have been just before the 1920's. Oops, did you forget about a little conflict called World War I? Okay, it must have been the Roaring Twenties. Let's think about that for a moment. Along with the Charleston wasn't there this little thing called Prohibition that allowed the gangsters to take over many of our cities? I seem to remember that decade ended with the stock market crashing and people diving out of windows. The thirties? Few are silly enough to claim unemployment rates over 25% and people waiting in line in our cities for a bowl of soup and an apple was a golden time.
It certainly couldn't have been the forties with Hitler threatening and almost succeeding in taking over the world, murdering millions of Jews and throwing the world into the most terrible global conflict in the history of the world. I know, I know...It was the 1950's.
Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy, Rock-n-Roll and total peace. Hate to bum you out, but how about the South's discriminatory policies, including separate drinking fountains, bathrooms and the shame of segregated schools. I was in grade school during this decade. I can remember how kids made fun of handicapped children and how what we now call Special Education students were segregated in separate schools or in bleak classrooms in the basement near the furnace. Oh, there was that little conflict called the Korean War. Hmmmm... The 1960's?
Beach Boy music, skateboards and the Beatles were pretty great. But yikes, what about the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr and campus unrest and the bodies coming home daily from the Vietnam War? Millions of us actually saw the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.
There were problems in the decade of the 1970's including the continuing of the Vietnam War and the shame of the thousands of needless deaths there, Watergate, a psychotic president and the energy crisis. Iran took over our embassy and held hostages. The eighties and 1990s are too recent to be called the “Golden Age”.
Yes, we have problems now. There always have been. It just doesn't help things to spread myths about how great things were in some mysterious time long ago. It is not a harmless myth either. It causes people to see only the bad in modern life and ignore the good. It causes young people to become depressed and feel they are doomed. It gives fuel to End of Times believers and makes people give up.
The next time you hear me or yourself spouting about how great things were, look around for a moment or two. Aren't computers amazing? Haven't we made progress in nearly every aspect of life over the years? I have met two people in the last week that would be dead if not for the incredible advances in the medical field. People live longer, are more educated and despite the Iraq debacle and our involvement in Afghanistan the world is more peaceful than ever. We fly cross-country or across the oceans in a matter of hours and bitch if our plane is an hour late, on trips that used to take weeks or months not so long ago. Minorities are more integrated into all aspects of modern life, than ever before. We have recreational time that our ancestors could not even imagine.
We even have time enough to spout nonsense about how great it was back in the ol' days.