Each person has their own telescope into the past. Some past that was, within their range of vision, good and right. Whether said wistfully, enthusiastically, or with a vengeance, the comment is something like this: I want America the way it used to be. It's followed with, or implied that, "Life was so good when I was growing up. I want it to be that America again."
I've heard this kind of statement from people of different generations and I wonder what it really means. Because what life was like for Lush Rush is different than what life was like in the 80's. Which America are they talking about? or is it about just a piece of childhood? or youth?
A former boss, who is now retirement age, said something like that to me. He is a good man. Hard working. Intelligent. Talented. If I do the math right, he was in his prime in the early 60's, living way above the Mason-Dixon. I can imagine his life. I'm sure it was good, and I don't blame him for wanting not only youth, but peace, contentment and a feeling of security. Because I'm sure that life in his upper-middle-class, all-white upbringing was peaceful, content and secure.
His vision at 18, 20, or 22, and his telescope back into that time doesn't include the little black girl fire-hosed by a white officer. A public servant. I'm sure he didn't know that whites (Europeans) were allowed to immigrate here, but me? my dad? Africans? were severely restricted. He probably didn't think about the fact that a working woman might have her paycheck paid to the order of her husband. If he had seen the rest of the scenery, what would he think? What would he think of the mother and young son thrown off the train in the middle of a field for riding in the wrong section?
This is my theory of why my former boss thinks the good ole days are the good ole days. This mythical, indefinable town and time. Because people stayed in their place. Whites stayed with whites. The Chinese stayed in Chinatown. The blacks weren't allowed to move up. The poor stayed poor and the wealthy could hire them. And he's not a mean person. He just didn't have to deal with it. Any of it.
Maybe the 70's were better. It was 1970 or so that Governor Wallace asked for, and President Nixon released Lt. William Calley even though he was responsible for killing over 500 innocent civilians in what is known as the My-Lai Massacre. (Are your children in another room? Then go ahead - click on the links. Look at the photos.) Or the 80's with the huge increase in national deficit and the environment in which the rich got richer and poorer got poorer.
Instead of longing for the not so good Good Ole Days, I wish the people who long for them would take down their telescopes and look around. I don't have to be hosed down or spit on to know that there's no such thing as a sparkling bright world. In this life, anyway. But then again, those wishing for the good ole days may not see those injustices as big as I see them.