Susan Condon Love

Shell shocked. That seems to be the prevailing emotion these days, as people walk through their daily routine, shoulders slumped under the weight of lies and racism from our national leaders.

You are a liar. No, YOU are a liar. You are a racist. I’m the least racist person in the history of the world. The sky is blue. Wrong! It is red, to symbolize making America “great again” by slamming our borders shut against all nonwhites – and all poor people, white or not.

At this point, many young and old are yearning for a break, thinking back to what was a simpler time of erudite politicians who paid attention to their constituents and practiced compassionate leadership.

But here’s the rub. Were things simpler … better? … 50 years ago? Recently, Country Living magazine looked back at 50 iconic facts from five decades ago. Old was not necessarily better, and certainly not safer.

Here are a few examples:

  • Fifty years ago, you had to actually go to a bank teller to withdraw money. ATMs were introduced in England in 1967 and weren’t introduced here until 1969.
  • Housing discrimination was rampant. The Fair Housing Act was signed into law on April 11, 1968, seven days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Speaking of MLK, legislation was introduced on April 4, 1968 to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, it wasn’t enacted for another 15 years, and only after a petition was signed by some 3 million people. Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation in 1983.
  • People got married a lot earlier 50 years ago. The average age for women was 20; the average age for men was 23. Today, the average age for women is 26.5 and men 28.7.
  • Seatbelts were introduced in new cars in 1968, but it didn’t become mandatory to buckle up until 1984.
  • A gallon of gas 50 years ago was 34 cents. Does that make you wistful? Don’t be. The rate adjusted for inflation is $2.31, which is pretty close to what we are currently paying.
  • 9-1-1 didn’t exist. Think about that.
  • Lenders were allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender and race.
  • Cigarette ads were still on radio and TV (they were banned in September 1970).
  • There was no internet. The internet’s predecessor, ARPAnet, was created in 1969 as an alternative method of government communication should telephones fail.
  • Lastly (and I could list a bunch more, but I’ll stop here), the environment was “an afterthought,” according to the article.

Honestly, looking at that list, the biggest strides seem to be in our health and safety, rather than huge societal strides. There’s still housing and sex discrimination. It’s just hidden. Male/female pay inequity, as we’ve seen with several well publicized examples lately, is still rampant.

The reality could be that things were pretty bad 50 years ago, but civility was still a societal standard.

Racists are feeling empowered. According to Newsweek, “You have white supremacists like Andrew Anglin calling Trump’s words ‘encouraging and refreshing,’ ” said the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism Oren Segal, referring to the editor of Daily Stormer, a fringe, anti-Semitic conspiracy website that serves as a homepage for young, disaffected white men. Segal said that when Trump makes racially charged remarks, it gives a signal to isolated and hateful people that their views are normal and are “gaining a foothold in this country,” even if that might not be the case.

As much as we are feeling bone-tired, this is not the time to retreat into nostalgia. It wasn’t that great “back in the day.” In fact, it was pretty bad for a lot of people – nonwhites and women in particular.

So take a deep breath and buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for quite awhile.

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