I know the (old) name of this blog is (was) “Please Cut the Crap,” but the name was always sardonic. While I like sarcasm, I save it for those who deserve it and have absolutely no use for cynicism. I know some people seem to think it’s just as great as intelligence, but if I’m being honest (and I pretty much always am these days), I think it’s a poor substitute and even a sign of a lack of intelligence.
That’s why I loved Barack Obama as a candidate and why I love him as a President. Like me, he really truly believes that “yes, we can” and he has worked his ass off to bring the “hope and change” he promised. Even with a Republican Party that has been purely obstructionist, he’s gotten a lot done. Not the least of his accomplishments has been to calm us all down and give other nations a reason to trust us again.
I know, I seem too happy-clappy for words, but when someone says something along the lines of “The world is going to hell in a handbasket,” or when they describe this country as if it was a shit storm, I wonder where they have been the last seven years, because the shit storm largely ended on January 20, 2009. I mean, there’s a lot that still needs to be done, but the worst of the domestic damage caused by the Bushies in eight years has been reversed and the international damage may never be fixed. And I know a lot of stupid laws have been passed, but most of them have been the result of right wingers having to be dragged, kicking and screaming into a country where all people actually have equal rights. I’ll get into those rights more in another post; that’s not what I want to discuss here.
I want to talk about this strange concept of “The Good Old Days.” Whenever I hear that phrase or something like it, I wonder what type of history they’ve studied, if any. The United States is better now than it ever has been, in most ways and it continues to get better.
Like I said, that’s why the right wing is screaming so loud. They don’t want the country to be better.
“Make America great again?” As compared to what, exactly?
I mean yes, I have seen the “Newsroom” pilot, in which Aaron Sorkin, via Jeff Daniels, explains why we’re no longer great, “Yosemite?” But while what he says makes sense, it’s another example of cherry-picking data to prove a point. Yes, our nation was better off economically. Families were better off economically. However, if you were alive in the 1960s, you might not agree that things were better then than now. There are many reasons why I say this.
Can you make the case that people are cruder and more coarse? Maybe. We may use more “bad” language in public than ever, but let’s be real; I was born in 1958 and my parents knew all of the words and used most of them, so are we sure that’s true? In any case, who decided which words are “bad”? And if we’re being honest, which world is better? A world in which people can now tel others to “fuck off,” or one in which Lenny Bruce could be targeted and harassed by police and the courts for using “bad” language in front of a crowd of adults who happily paid to hear him use it? The latter is more in line with the ideals set forth in our Constitution.
I’d argue that the Good Old Days™ were far cruder. Sure, people dressed more demurely and curtseyed a lot, but while they were acting “politely” with each other, they were redlining neighborhoods, throwing non-whites out of most businesses and considered themselves better than others. I mean, if someone never says “fuck,” but they throw the “n****rs,” “w—–ks” and “f—-ts” out of their businesses, or refuses to allow them the same opportunities as white people, how “polite” are they, really? Men used to be able to go home and legally rape their wives; how polite is that society? because it’s legal, what kind of society is that, really Is that a “polite” society?
When you compare the current state of society with the Good Old Days™, how are we better off now, culturally speaking? Consider:
While women are still getting screwed in the workplace in many ways (making 77% of what men make for the same jobs is unacceptable), at least they can work in almost any profession they qualify for these days, with far fewer restrictions. Women have a lot more control over their own life these days, as well. In the Good Old Days™, women could own little or no property without their husband, they couldn’t open a line of credit on their own, and they couldn’t work in any but a limited number of professions considered “ladylike.” Up until the 1970s, when a woman cried “rape,” the burden of proof was largely on her to prove she had been raped and there was pretty much no such thing as marital rape. If you were married, he was entitled, whether the wife wanted it or not.
Not only that, but women have a much larger measure of control over their own reproductive systems, and I’m not just talking about abortion. In the Good Old Days™, people had at least as much sex as they do now, but when they were discovered to have had sex, they were usually forced to marry. If they had a child, they either married or they were ostracized and blackballed. And once married, divorce was extremely difficult and could rarely be initiated by the woman. Single women who became pregnant when they were either too young to get married or who were unwilling or unable to identify the father were largely forced into “homes for unwed mothers,” usually far from home, where they had no choice but to give their babies up for adoption, or to live in an orphanage. And there was no returning to school after they gave birth. In fact, in many cases, they were shunned by their hometowns and banished to a far away place.
Back in the Good Old Days™, discrimination of all kinds was simply accepted in “polite” society. Everyone who was “different” was routinely discriminated against, and not “politely.” It was not possible for anyone to be openly gay until perhaps 10-15 years ago, and it’s only been in recent years that most barriers have been breaking down. People with Downs’ Syndrome, Autism and those with physical and mental challenges have only recently been allowed to join mainstream society and participate to the extent they can now. As late as the 1980s, a friend of mine who is was confined to a wheelchair after an accident was unable to get most jobs because she couldn’t get there; she had no choice but to work from her apartment and the choice of jobs was really small then. People are far more “polite” to them now than they were when the would just institutionalize them and forget about “people like that.”
There is also a notion that, somehow, in the Good Old Days™, education was exceptional, and it was, but not in the way many think. The availability of a quality education for all is a relatively recent concept. Blacks, Latinos and other ethnic groups were denied access to quality education in the United States until the 1970s, and they’re still playing catch-up to this day. Technology is making education easier to obtain than ever, as the Internet, e-readers and tablet computers loaded with hundreds of books each can now replace the bulky textbooks that made widespread education difficult in many areas. Yes, there are stupid and small-minded attempts to instill “accountability” in the system and I reject them, but overall, education is available to more people than ever.
Think about it. Democracy is growing like wildfire, which is why right wingers have been so intent on putting the kibosh on it. And it’s growing around the world. Think about it; empire is all but gone and we have several international bodies and rules of law that encourage greater cooperation between countries. For the first time in human history, we have a globally accepted body of law that accepts and respects basic human rights, and things that 100 years ago would have been considered “tradition” and therefore acceptable are no longer so. It’s no longer acceptable in most places for people to be sold into slavery, or for women to be raped, even by their husbands. Look at the outcry when Russia banned “gay”; that wouldn’t have happened even a decade ago. It is becoming less and less possible for governments to get away with atrocities, and there is more pushback than ever against such things.
Here, in the United States, the circle of discrimination keeps getting smaller. While institutional discrimination persists, the number of people affected keeps shrinking. Gay people got the right to marry last year and just a few weeks ago, the EEOC ruled that it was illegal to discriminate against LGBT people based on the laws against sex discrimination. If progressives can keep their shit together for a while this time, we can elect Democrats and add LGBT to the Civil Rights Act once and for all. Do we still have work to do? Of course, we do, but consider the outcry when a few Republican-led states passed laws to make bathroom discrimination legal. Look at how many people, inside and outside of government, rose up in protest of these stupid laws. Large corporations that we’re supposed to hate, took their dollars out of these states and they’re bringing them to their knees.
In the Good Old Days™, can you even imagine masses of people rising up to protect the rights of transgender people?
The world is getting better. Not fast enough, perhaps, but if you relish the Good Old Days™, you should at least be aware of what that means. Make no mistake; if progressives could win more elections, progress could be swifter and less painful, but overall, we are moving in the right direction.