The Good Ole Days

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Recently I got an e:mail from my 2nd-cousin-twice-removed-in-law Joe. He was asking if I'd seen that Red Skelton YouTube video where Red talks about the Pledge of Allegiance, and noted that the comments surrounding that bit were usually along the lines of "this country needs to get back to the way it used to be." Joe was trying to figure out exactly which used to be they are thinking about. The 50's? The 60's? And he wanted to know what my thoughts were.

Well, far be it from me to let an opportunity go to waste to spout my opinion about how fucked up the American public is, so that's the subject of today's blog post, with a hat tip to Cousin Joe for the inspiration.

What, exactly, are the "Good Ole Days," and why do people long for them? What's so great about how things used to be compared to today's social construct that we should shuck progress in favor of going backwards?

Are the Good Ole Days the time before germ theory, when getting an infection was basically a death sentence, and a young girl's fantasy consisted of making it out childbirth alive? No?

Okay, then how about the turn of the century, when social welfare programs were non-existent and losing your job and your home basically condemned you and your children to death by exposure and hunger? How about those? Were those the Good Ole Days? No?

Well, then, surely the middle of the century were the Good Ole Days. The G.I. Bill allowed an enormous number of veterans to achieve the American Dream, owning their own homes and becoming members of the middle class. That was a great time to be alive!

....Unless, of course, you were a person of color, and the simple acts of voting or getting a decent education were acts of courage and conviction. Those weren't really the Good Ole Days for African Americans living the Jim Crow South, now were they?

I've noticed that people who engage in the "this country needs to get back to the way it used to be" rhetoric are usually the ones who also engage in "America! Fuck, Yeah!" patriotism. And, yes, I'm going to say it - I strongly suspect they're also the ones that perceive the "Good Ole Days" to be a time when them uppity colored folks knew their place and stayed there.

Now I'm certainly not suggesting that waxing nostalgic for years past automatically makes you a racist asshat. Far from it. But I do think that such rhetoric is often used as code for racist opinion, and I'd almost rather they just came right out and said, "I hate that my unearned privilege is being threatened by an egalitarian social structure and I wish those colored folk were still second class citizens." But that's not how people's brains work, and such self-honesty is a rare, rare thing.

Progress is GOOD. It means that no one has to die from an infection, thanks to the discoveries made possible by the Theory of Evolution leading to modern antibiotics. It means that everyone gets a chance to educate themselves and move up (or down) the economic ladder depending on how hard they work and their own ability. It means that people who are "different" from the majority aren't ridiculed, aren't discriminated against, aren't deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Based on our country's values and founding documents, these benefits must apply to everyone. Everyone, including people of color, and the LGBT population, and people whose religion isn't the same as the majority. Not just affluent Christian white folks, like in the GOOD OLE DAYS.

That's progress, and even if you mistakenly think your unearned privilege is your Constitutional right, you don't get to enjoy modern antibiotics, social welfare programs, and all the other wonders of our modern life and world without accepting the accompanying social progress, as well.

Some people may want to go back to dying of amoebic dysentery, but me? I'll keep looking forward, thanks.

6 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

I suspect that there's also a bit of the "good ole days" = "when I was younger". Kids, especially kids of privilege, leave in a simpler universe. They are shielded from most things by their families, their schools, their communities, and are allowed to think of whatever strikes their fancy, be it baseball or horses, without having to worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table.

And kids of privilege are "never" racists -- they just are taught that sort of stuff by their parents and elders, and have not enough information or life experience to compare it to.

So when I hear people moan about the Good Ole Days, I hear them whining about being an adult.

Don't know about you, but I like being an adult. Yeah, the aches and pains are a pain, but I get to do the things I could only dream about when I was a kid.

Dr. Phil

coptoonf -- Closed Caption Keystone Kops cartoon fun

Eric said...

Right now, I'm going to agree with the people who yearn for America to be just like it was in the "good ol' days": completely uninhabited, ca. 15,000 BCE.

My misanthropy I haz today, can I show you it?

Anne C. said...

I think you (and Dr. Phil, for that matter) are probably on target with that correlation. The added bonus is that the middle of the last century, wimmin knew their place and when a man came home from work, he came home to a good meal and an ottoman to put his feet on. There was none of this diaper-changing and cleaning off the dishes. And when wimmin DID work, it was in wimmin's jobs, like nursing, teaching, or secretarial work.
Ahhhhh... the Good Ol' Days!

exper = a specialist with ADD

Carol Elaine said...

I'd almost rather they just came right out and said, "I hate that my unearned privilege is being threatened by an egalitarian social structure and I wish those colored folk were still second class citizens."

Please, you know they'd never say that! Mainly because they wouldn't know what the hell "egalitarian social structure" means.

Janiece said...

Dr. Phil, you've made an excellent point, as usual. And I'm with you - being an adult is a much better deal.

Eric, you can be the official misanthrope of the UCF.

And Anne, you made my point from yesterday, by pointing out the the wimmins are also included in the Good Ole Days cognitive dissonence, while I totally missed the boat. AGAIN.

Rachael said...

And let's not forget that in the good ol' days when the non-lily-white knew their place, your woman would be in the kitchen, baking you a pie.

Mmm, pie.

I think that "the good ol' days" is really just a nicer, easier way of saying, "Gosh, I miss those halcyon times when the white male power structure didn't have to pretend it was anything but white and male, and felt good about lighting its unfiltered cigarettes with hundred dollar bills. Because that's back when tobacco was still good for you, you know."