Them Good Ole Days

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.



AmyP said...

I've been thinking about this since we discussed it awhile back. (In fact, your email is still in my inbox for occasional rereading and reflection.) I originally wrote a really, really long comment, but it didn't seem to have a point. =) Here's my second attempt...

I think what people long for when they reminisce about "the good ole days" is a time when they were without responsibility. You are right about things not being better "back then" for so many, but as a child they were allowed to be completely unaware. As adults they know. They know about the suffering in the world and in their community. Now it's up to them to do something about it. And frankly, that's a lot harder for all of us than catching fireflies in the back yard with the neighbor kids.

mamawhelming said...

Very thoughtful post, Blackbelt Oma. Although smaller scale than the racial injustices you write about, it makes me think of the so-called war on Christmas hubbub the past few years and people longing for the good ole days when folks just said "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." Maybe it's my myopia, I often interpret this as resentment toward Jews and toward attempts of the happy holidayers to be generously inclusive at that time of year.

A couple years ago Bonnie Hunt, whom I always liked, was talking about it on Tony Danza's now defunct talk show. Tony was saying, well, you know, not everyone celebrates Christmas, it's nice to be inclusive, and she just seemed to unwilling to accept that. I sensed a cold resentment in her and haven't felt the same about Bonnie Hunt since then.

Third Mom said...

Right on the money.

I just saw Milk, and was pulled up short by the memories of Anita Bryant and her particular breed of hatred. I had all but pushed her from my mind, but the movie reminded me of just how much hate one person can spread, and how many people can suffer because of it.

Life is an endless stream of changes that hopefully move us forward, however slowly. Going back simply isn't an option.

Julie said...

This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog so much. It pulls me out of my white suburban upper middle class world and makes me think with a view that is not stereotypically mine.

I do have to say though that I daydream about living in a time that was more simple. Life was slower and less about stuff. But there is no perfect time. All times and places are littered with injustices. Though I have my own little utopia going in my head.

blackbelt said...

Third Mom, I think one of the hardest things to do for most people is to disagree but still be civil and Loving. It's a fine line to walk.

And Julie, I long for that less materialistic time, too. That is something specific and defined. We try our best to do that in our home. We take good care of the things we have. We value people. We don't watch TV in front of him.

Anonymous said...

I read that you posted my comment on Racialicious and wanted to respond. Just for the record my name is Lavern Merriweather and yes I'm black and I want to apologize for the angry rant[boy I was pretty angry]. But it felt like you were being insensitive to the still existing racial problems that black people face today. I don't know if you noticed but during the elections there were a LOT of thinly veiled and outright hateful things said about Barack Obama that can't be about anything other than his race. So I didn't mean to go 'Kill Bill' on anybody I just feel it's a little thoughtless to say that like the issues we face are somehow over.