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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Good Old Days- The distorted view from American Rose Colored Glasses


Many Americans, especially White males reminisce about the “Good old Days”. They’d love to take the country back to this simpler time when streets were safe, and everyone knew their neighbors by name. A bag of candy was just a penny, houses only cost $8000 and a person could make a living off of a whole $67 a week.

When in reality that place never existed. It only exists in the rearview mirror of American Rose Colored Glasses™.

Behind the scenes of this fantasy world was actually chaos. Negroes were second class citizens, stifling under the oppressive laws of Jim Crow and its twisted unwritten social rules that set a standard of separate and unequal.

Would we have needed a Civil Rights movement if all was so good in the 1950’s? Would Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer and other brothers and sisters have protested against the oppressive policies of Jim Crow if everything was so great?

Would Emmitt Till have been tortured and mutilated if everything was so great about the 50’s? After the American South was such a happy and idealistic place with the KKK terrorizing Black people all the time. Especially in those Sundown towns where Black people couldn't be out at night.  

But White men were such heroes back in the 1950's. Good proud, honest, hardworking  men who stood behind their families. 

Until they couldn't take care of them anymore. Or just didn't want to. 

Those same dreamers who idealize 1950's America don't like to talk about how White women and their children were routinely walked out on by their husbands back in the idealistic 50's. Dad would just say he’d be going out for a pack of cigarettes and…Never be seen again. And because there was no child support laws back then, those women had to get on Welfare.

But I guess White Female Welfare queens were acceptable in the world of the “good old days of the 1950s.”

That with Welfare being available to only White women back then. Thanks to those Jim Crow laws, Black women couldn’t get on welfare. So when their husbands walked out on them they had to take low-wage work as maids and leave their kids at home alone to fend for themselves.

Then there were Jews.  A nasty little secret in American history is that Americans were just as Anti-Semitic as the Nazis. Back in the 50’s Jews were harassed on the regular by those “good” white males. They endured swastikas painted on their doors, rocks thrown through their windows and other forms of abuse when they went to school or the synagogue.

But In the rose-colored world of the “good old days of the 1950’s Jews were doing well. They ran Hollywood and got acting and producing jobs. And they were the best tailors in the world. Not to mention they made a great Motzah ball soup.

And the Members of the Asian community weren't doing so great in the 1950’s either. Many Japanese and Chinese Americans were stuck in internment camps. Many were humiliated in these places and never recovered from that psychological torture of having their homes and businesses taken from them in the name of Democracy.

But in the rose-colored world of the “good old days” They just did laundry and ran Chinese Restaurants. A few found joy in emasculating work as houseboys for “Honorable White men”. And Asian women were quiet docile servants who never spoke a word against "Honorable White Man" or any other man.

When in reality most Asians struggled to make a living  thanks to the White Supremacy and racism they encountered in idealistic 1950's America. Remember, those same Rich White Supremacists oppressed them by taking their homes and businesses destroying their way to make a living and compete with them.

And even most middle-classed White Men didn’t live up to this fantasy of the idealistic 1950's because the U.S. Economy wasn’t that great back then. Without the help of the G.I. Bill sending former enlisted men to college and trade school, paying for homes, and keeping many families afloat, America’s economy would be just as bad as Japan’s or the U.K.’s was post-reconstruction.

Everyone had a job. If he was a White Male. A RICH white male. And those were the only people who did well in the 1950s, the people who ran the factories and sold goods to help make money on wars like Korea and Vietnam 10 years later.

But in the eyes of many a middle-class white male, those were the good old days. And these “good God fearing” citizens all lived right and did the right thing all the time.

Even though Monday through Saturday they were committing every sin known to man. Those hardworking housewives were cheating with the milkman, the mailman and sometimes both at the same time. Teens were engaging in pre-marital sex all the time in the backseat of 57’ Chevys. Husbands were banging their secretaries, their maids, or whoever they picked up at a bar. 

Along with the occasional Black man or Black woman even though it was supposed to be illegal in some southern states. 

And All while they professed a love for God on Sunday. All while they professed to follow His law to the letter. All while they shamed others for the same evil deeds they did behind closed doors.

Ah, the good old days of the 1950’s. If we could just go back to living the way they did back then everything would just be peachy keen. The world would be a better place.

Except when one takes off the Rose colored ™ glasses that distort the picture of 1950's life  they see they weren’t so great to begin with. When one looks at the 1950's objectively they'll see people were living just as twisted then as they are today.

And If one looks at history objectively, they’ll see that while times changed American  people stay the same hypocritical way they remain today.

And now 30 Years after the late Ronald Regan came to be President Members of Generation X are now putting on a new version of those same Rose-Colored Glasses™. The sons and grandsons of the White men of the 1950’s  Baby Boomer generation who talked about the “good old days” are revising their history the same way their parents did.

If you listen to them,  the 1980’s were a golden age. And everything then was better than it is today. If we could just go back to that standard of the 1980's in this country life in America would be just peachy.
It's one of the biggest lies people could tell themselves.

As a child of the 1980’s I can tell you things weren’t as great as people present them to be.

Our Great Hero Ronald Regan created our National Debt with his Reganomics approach to spending.

Our Great Hero Ronald Regan gave weapons to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

Our Great Hero Ronald Regan was friends with Osama Bin Laden. His Vice-president George Bush was friends with Bin Laden.

Our Great Hero Ronald Regan said Black women were "welfare queens". Even though the truth was WHITE WOMEN have been the queens of Welfafe since 1950. Remember, Black women couldn't get welfare back in the 50's.

So that means the  American White Man from the idealistic 50's was the ORIGINAL DEADBEAT DAD. 

And Our Great Hero Ronald Regan gave weapons to Iran and the Contras in Nicaragua. 

But he didn't remember making those deals when asked about them in a Congressional hearing. 

I won't talk about all the people who died during this wonderful golden Age of AIDS. How they had a quilt bearing the names of Millions of victims of this fatal disease they took out every year with new patches added to it.. 

According to those wonderful 80's idealists wearing those rose-colored glasses, those people just didn't exist. In their distorted vision of the decade Everyone was just having unprotected sex. 

And Franklin Seayles, Rock Hudson, and Robert Reed and millions of others died of something else. 

Even though I remember everyone being scared shitless about having sex in the age of AIDS. Even porn stars stopped having sex in movies because they knew AIDS was a DEATH SENTENCE back then. In two years you were DEAD because there was no KNOWN CURE at the time 

And during that great “golden age” of the 1980’s big cities like New York and Los Angeles were hell holes. 
The Bronx was practically a wasteland of abandoned lots and burnt down buildings, and Harlem was a close second. Hell, parts of lower Manhattan like Greenwich Village, Union Square and Alphabet City were just as bad as the ghetto. 

Times Square was Porn central with x-rated theaters and prostitutes selling ass right on the corner of 42nd Street in broad daylight..

Heroin from the 70’s had made the streets of New York a war zone. Crime was through the roof. Junkies and stick-up kids practically terrorized neighborhoods. That kept people from opening new businesses here and had people of means fleeing here for life in the suburbs of Long Island.

Our subway system was complete shit. Falling into disrepair in the 1970’s due to the state and city fiscal crisises of that decade, trains broke down on the regular, were dirty and covered in graffiti. If you got someplace on time you better thank God. If you got home in one piece you thanked God again. Your chances of getting mugged on a train at night were about 90% back in the 80's. The city was that UNSAFE.

But to those in the rose colored glasses the 1980’s were a time of GI Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, Jem, Ghostbusters, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, and a slew of other Childhood TV Favorites. We watched all those shows scarving down Smurf-Berry-Crunch and washing it down with Five Alive. 

Well I’ll tell you that you had to watch all those TV shows because you couldn’t go outside. It was just too dangerous. In between the junkies, stick-up kids, and the pedophiles, a kid couldn’t just go out and play. I remember many a kid in my neighborhood having their Huffy BMX bikes stolen back then.

And that Heroin influenced Crime wave was just about to get worse with the introduction of Crack cocaine.Because there were no jobs in that wonderful Regan-Era golden Age in the inner-city, guys slung rock on the streets. And they fought over turf to sell that rock, turning New York City into a warzone equal to Vietnam or Beruit.

But because Nancy Regan and George H.W. Bush told us to Say No to drugs. most Americans who wore Rose colored glasses said No.

Only they just crossed their fingers when they said it. Then they smoked that weed, injected that heroin, and snorted that cocaine, and smoked that crack.

Because we had more addicts come out of  the 1980's than the previous two decades.

Starting in 1987 when Crack cocaine started getting popular, New York City was becoming a homicide capital of the world with over 1,000 murders a year. And by 1990, it was up to 2,200 murders as crime spiked to unprecedented levels as the Crack epidemic spread nationwide. And many of those murders remain unsolved to this day.

Crack destroyed families, turned parents against children, children against parents, brother against brother, sister against sister, and friend against friend. The sense of community in most neighborhoods was shattered as people feinded for the three minute high from the three dollar rock in a little plastic vial. 

But in the eyes of most White males these were the “good old days.” A time people would love to get back to. A golden age of joy and prosperity.

That’s what all those Hilarious John Hughes teen movies tell us they were. That’s what Gordon Gekko tells us in Wall Street. Everyone was doing so well back then. Greed was Good.

Until the Stock Market Crash of 1987.

Having lived in those times, I have no interest in going back. I know it wasn’t a golden age living in a one-bedroom apartment with five other people. Having no heat and no hot water in the winter. Huddling around a stove to stay warm in the winter. Forced to watch TV, read comic books, and play video games all day because I couldn’t play outside because of junkies, pedophiles, alcoholics, and stick-up kids.

Sure there was some progress back then, like Hip-hop, the Cosby Show and many Black people being the first or second in their families to get to the middle class. But instead of dwelling on the past I’d rather focus on today. That’s how I move forward. That’s how I build on progress. That’s how I plan on getting out of the ghetto of my mind.

In life, you can’t turn the clock back to any era. There are no “good old days”, just memories distorted by our subjective imaginations. Anyone who thinks they’re going back to the “way things were” is a fool.

How can you go back to the good old days when things have changed so much? How can you change people’s minds to think like they did 30 years ago when 30 years have passed and the world has changed? How do you stuff the genie back in the bottle? 

As much as I like Hostess pudding pies, Vanilla Cookie Crisp, Marshmallow cookies, and Choco bliss, would I really want to live in a world of Walkmans and cassettes with 8-10 songs on two sides of tape, when there are ipods which play over 2000 songs? Would I want to live in a three-network universe when we have 500 channels? Would I want to live in a world of VCRs and Video stores when I can get DVDs on Netflix? Would I want dream of making home movies with a 12 pound $2000 camcorder when there’s PC's with cameras in them that can broadcast my videos directly to YouTube?

I can’t imagine living in the 1980s again having experienced the last 30 years. The way I see it, we still have a lot of the same problems we had 30 years ago. But we’ve come a long way and made some inroads towards solving those problems. And the only way to keep that progress going is to keep going forward.

When someone comes and talks to you about the “good old days” tell them you can’t go back, you can only go ahead. Living in today is better than reminiscing about yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. This is simply gorgeous, Shawn. I have not seen better. I guess distortions of every kind are staples in all societies, but this is one of the most egregious ones: the great old '50's. Yeah? I don't think anyone other than certain whites regard this era as anything other than what it was.

    And what that era was is mainly this: White meant right. You need do nothing else other than be born white. But we know that poor whites, even then, were regarded with disdain, as ignorant louts. It ws an era when politcians played on the basic fears of whites and stoked their predjudices. Some poor whites knew that they were being hornswoggled, but felt they had to go along with the program.

    We've come far, and we know that every time we get far ahead, some devil like Romney and his ilk does his best to crowd us back to the days of slavery and just after.

    So beat the drums of freedom, Shawn, the way African generals set them beating in Haiti long ago, and we all know they broke the yoke of one of the most brutal systems of slavery ever known.

    Our task is to stay free and move ahead with dignity and honor. And we need excellent writers like you to help us do this.

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