Shaken, Not Stirred: It’s all in your mind.

August 21, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

#ShakenNotStirred

 

Shaken, Not Stirred, a blog by Jim Bond.

This is as close as I’ll get to a political column.

Well, maybe…

So when exactly was America great? This is a question which must be asked if the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is to be chanted. And what needs to be accomplished to do so? What measurements of success to that end shall be the criteria?

“Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts.”

Philip Roth

Novelist

So…when was America great?

Was it the 1930s? 1940s? 1950s? 1960s?

Granted, life was simpler in those decades. No electronic devices, Mom stayed home to raise the children. “I Love Lucy” was on TV, along with myriad other shows which we still long for. I recall as a child in the fifties, watching “Little Rascals (Our Gang)” reruns on afternoon TV. Cars were rolling sculptures, we had home milk deliveries. You could receive S & H Green Stamps at grocery stores and service stations (don’t even get me started on ‘service stations’).  There was freedom to smoke everywhere!

I recall my maternal grandmother regaling me with tales of her youth (1920s), delivered in such a manner that her longing for a return to those days was obvious. I also remember when we showed up at her house for a Sunday dinner (who does THAT anymore?) in my mother’s new 1955 Olds Super 88. My grandmother looked at it with a hint of a sneer. She rapped on the fender of my mother’s new car, then tapped on the fender of her 1950 Oldsmobile 88 and chortled: “Well! Sure don’t build ‘em like they used to”.

Being a lover of classic and antique cars, I subscribe to various Facebook sites such as ‘Life in the 1950s’. These pages extol the beauty and graciousness of the old days. Honestly, I really do miss the graciousness.

Frequently omitted are a few small issues; during the Great Depression, there was no work. Women made dresses and shirts out of flour sacks. During that era there were weekly baths, sometimes in metal tubs. Sometimes in the same water which was used for all. (Last one out’s a rotten egg! [Or, at least smelled like one]).

We went through the horrors of World War II. When these memories are currently mentioned, frequently even they seem to be wistfully romanticized. When men were men and women were women. Apologies to ‘Rosie the Riveter’.

In the 1950s, if you were fortunate enough to own a TV, you had only three channels. Oh, the horror and indignation. You had to defrost your refrigerator!

Polio. Try and poeticize that one.

Race relations were certainly ‘ducky’ weren’t they? The internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II is not a shining moment or a fond memory.

The specifics of the following story haven’t been verified, but legend has it that a Las Vegas hotel completely drained their pool because black entertainer Dorothy Dandridge stuck her toe in the water.

Simone Manuel, of whom we’re so proud for her outstanding performances in swimming at this year’s Olympics,  wouldn’t have been allowed in a public pool in ‘The Good Old Days’.

In the South, courtrooms had two Bibles with which to swear in witnesses; one for whites, one for blacks.

But if you’re looking for a really rollicking good time let’s savor the rise and fall of Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, the demagogue who shattered the lives of thousands of American citizens, making public accusations of people being communists or communist sympathizers. Indeed, a swell time in America.

Playwright Arthur Miller wrote a play in 1953, The Crucible, a fictionalized story of the Salem witchcraft trials, as an allegory to McCarthyism. Miller had been convicted by Congress of refusing to testify against his friends.

On a personal level, when was your life great?

We all look through old photographs and long for the feeling of peace that such a reminiscence evokes. But 10 years from now, we’ll peruse photos from 2016 and remember how great things were then. Why? Because most of us forget the problems and issues which plagued us.  

Let me propose this idea. For all of the massive, unprecedented and dangerous problems we face today, let’s quit moaning, groaning, and bitching about how bad things are. How about we start listening. We are fortunate enough to live in an exceptional nation with a rich (but yes, frequently shameful) history. But there’s still a great deal we can learn from other countries and societies.

To quote Bill Maher, of whom I’m not necessarily a fan: “Land of the free and home of the brave…ACT like it!”.

 

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