Tag Archives: “Good Old Days”

Advancing to the Rear!!

Make America Great  Again!!  Let’s go back to the Good old Days!!! These are currently  the “marching orders”  that Trump is trying to give to the Republican Party as the slogans for this Presidential election.  The acceptance of these slogans by the working class in great numbers is a portrait of the extreme ignorance of the history of their country that these people have . O.K. folks.  LET’S SEE WHAT  YOU WISH TO RETURN TO!   Let’s go back to 1870s to early 1920s.  That’s period is  known as the  “Gilded Age”  and indeed it was ‘gilded”‘ if you had the gold and were a member of the Upper Class. I  don’t see many of those people at Trump’s rallies. I  see a lot of working people struggling to make a  living, in debt up to the hilt,  not trusting the well educated and too  ill-educated themselves to separate Trump’s lies from the truth.  The  perfect audience for a demagogue.

There are things we need to remember about the “Good Old Days.” I’ll close with some pictures of life during the years between 1870s and 1920s:

  • Are you prepared to give up Social Security and Medicare? Going back will mean that most of you will  either have to be taken care of by your families or you will end your days in a “county poor farm.”
  • Don’t get sick as antibiotics have not yet been discovered.
  • The scourge of a crippling or fatal polio epidemic is always present, especially in the summers. There will not be a polio vaccine until the 1960s. Flu shots are unknown also.  Only measles can be inoculated against.
  • Most of you will work from dawn to dark around dangerous machinery as the Industrial Age really kicks in.  There is no 40 hour work week; it will be 70-80 hours. No days off; no paid vacation.
  • If you are injured on the job, you will be fired.  There is no workers’ compensation. You will be given what you are owed in wages up to the point of injury and sent home. Disability, a part of Social Security, is not law yet.
  • There is no OSHA so working conditions are bad—See Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for an example of the working conditions in the meat packing industry during this time.
  • When you go to town, the best roads will only be gravel. After heavy rains most country roads will be quagmires and you will have to go on horseback. You’ll have to use them as most of you will still live in rural areas—only 10% in cities and the rest of the population on farms.
  • Many of you, if you are lucky, will get an 8th grade education, a smaller number will go to high school and a very small number of the elite will go to college.
  • You will be chopping wood for your heating stoves in the winter. There are no air conditioners, so it will be miserable to try to sleep on hot summer nights after those 12-14 plus hour days you will be working.
  • Take a vacation? Are you kidding? Have to be home as farmers (which most of you are) must be there to feed the livestock, milk the 15-20 cows, and turn the separator to separate the cream from milk—all by hand—remember, no electricity. No days off for farmers.
  • Need to go to the bathroom at night—use a “slop jar” in your room to be emptied in the morning. During the day, it is a trip to the “outhouse.”  When it’s hot, you will have to fend off the flies and wasps, as well as the smell. When it is cold, you will have to contend with a frozen “behind.”  Neither is pleasant.
  • For much of your time during these years, draft horses will be the chief source of power for your farm implements such as mowers, grain binders, cultivators, plows & drills. Horses usually work in twos—teams were often composed of a mare and a gelding—so your first task in the morning is to put on their harnesses (as well as feed and otherwise keep them ready to do their work).
  • If you were of age to go to school in the Fall to Spring, and your parents could spare you on the farm, you went to a Grade 1-8 country school. There were no school buses—you walked. Very seldom did you get a ride. Quite often your teacher would be a young woman just out of high school who had taken “Normal Training” in high school so she could teach. When she got married she would not be able to teach in most school districts. Those who allowed teachers to be married would cancel the contract with the first sign of pregnancy. The teachers who are married have no access to birth control except the “rhythm method’ or abstinence.

Are you still wanting to “Advance to the Rear” and go back to the “good old days”?

You Can’t go home again….

Ah!   Take me back to the good old days!   Many of the problems of our political  economic and social  systems, as well as  those of our churches are related to this fervent wish to return to an earlier time—a time we feel was better, friendlier, more comfortable and not as anxiety-ridden and threatening as the current time.   Americans, unknowingly for the most part, are in mourning for what they see as being lost in those past days, but are in denial that the loss is actually happening.

Much of the problem for Americans is that the virus of “exceptionalism” has infected our country since early times of the Pilgrims and continues to do so.   We have always seen ourselves as having a God-given destiny as a country to be the greatest power in the world.   The strongest militarily—having the strongest economy—-being the most intelligent scholastically—-the keepers of morality for the world because “God is on our side.”    We have come to see these things as a God-given right, and become very upset when it begins to appear that U.S. “exceptionalism”  is becoming less and less exceptional!

We can’t believe that our hegemony militarily, economically, scholastically, spiritually and morally is deteriorating.   We can’t believe it is happening to us!   We refuse to believe it is happening—-so we deny that it is happening and work feverishly to try and restore the “good old days.!”

In politics, that’s what the Tea Party and the ultra conservative movements are trying to do—-go back to the “good old days!”    They advocate going back to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution as originally written.    They proclaim they want to “take their country back.”    What they want is to take the country to the past that they see as more comfortable for them, less threatening before all of the changes that have happened since the Vietnam War.    They are strident and extreme and uncompromising because they see those changes undermining life as it was when the U.S. was  exclusive in its place of military and economic power.  Those who refuse to compromise have hamstrung our representative form of government and caused Congress to be unable to do anything meaningful.  There is a failure here to recognize that the world has changed.

It has changed since 9/11 when our military invincibility was shattered by the attack of Al Queda on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.   Since then we have engaged in two disastrous and long-term wars that have drained us militarily and economically as a nation—-Iraq and Afghanistan.    The outcome of both showed the U.S. inability to be “policemen and peacemakers for the world” with God on our side.    Our military might did not prove useful in either as far as long-term results being achieved.   We watch as both countries are on the verge of descending into partisan strife and chaos after all of our advice and expenditure of money and lives over many years.

The same is true of our economic invincibility.   We are faced with the competing economic juggernaut of China.   At G-8 meetings we no longer get the agreements from other world powers we used to automatically expect.    Our U.S. economy slipped into a severe recession in 2007 and in spite of everything we have tried to do to fix it, there has not been a return to the previous prosperity, although 7 years have elapsed.   There is a good chance there never will be.   Those days of prosperity may have vanished.

We have spent so much on wars that our infrastructure is crumbling in the United States.   So also is our health care—especially for the poor.   Our health care system is one of the most expensive and least effective dollar for dollar of any health care system in developed nations.    We are trying to balance the budget that is out of control due to the huge war expenditures  on the backs of the poor, of children, the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society.

And all the while, power has been consolidating in the hands of the oligarchic few who are growing richer and richer as the middle class shrinks.    The middle class shrinks because wages have not risen with corporate profits and the laws and court rulings are favoring the oligarchic few.    Unemployment and underemployment is still high as jobs have been sent overseas to take advantage of cheap labor there so that profits can be even higher for the oligarchic few.    The system we have is broken.  Unemployed people can’t keep our economy going because they have little money to buy with.    We are not taking care of the most vulnerable in our society and more and more people are becoming vulnerable.   This will have huge consequences for us.

It’s not a pretty picture.   Many will deny its truth.   They do so at their peril for it is an honest picture that needs to be faced.    We need to mourn what has been lost—-it was great while it lasted—-and go forward toward something different for the future.    We cannot do this until we admit that the “good old days” are never going to return.

Thomas Wolfe saw this in the early 20th century, looking back on “the good old days” of the Gilded Age which much resembled our current times,   he wrote:

“You can’t go home again….You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood,….back home to the old systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—-back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”     (Thomas Wolfe:   Look Homeward Angel)