it's something the primitive ancients engaged in before modernity reared its
enlightened head. But the US is a nation built upon a foundation of myth and
many forms of mythology have taken hold: free markets, Western supremacy,
the cult of science and technology, and fundamentalist demagoguery to name a
few. Such deeply held tenets could only become acceptable in a society
consciously and purposefully conditioned to worship wealth, consumerism, and
the unquestioned preservation of power at any cost.
That same society might be quite receptive to the alluring appeal of the
"good old days" (GOD). You're familiar with this concept, I'm sure. The days
when you could leave your doors open, sex was for the bedroom, men wore ties
and hats, and women knew their place. "Girls were girls and men were men,"
as the "All in the Family" theme song goes. Here's how conservative
columnist, Linda Bowles, describes the GOD concept: "There was a time, let's
call them the good old days, when parents could send their little children
off to school with full confidence they would be in good hands."
And some good old days, it seems, were better than others. Tom Brokaw, in
his best selling book, "The Greatest Generation," informs those who came of
age during the era of Reagan and Rambo that those who came of age during the
Depression and WWII were "the greatest generation any society has ever
produced." This was a generation that would take its rightful place
alongside those "who had converted the North American wilderness into the
United States," Brokaw declares without even a hint of irony.
The danger inherent in the GOD myth is twofold. Like all myths, its mere
existence makes other illusions easier to swallow. If the GOD invention is
accurate, the wars fought, the businesses started and subsidized, the
legislation passed, the culture created, and the leaders elected in the GOD
get a free ride on its coattails. We become a nation of people gazing
backward for innocence lost rather than looking ahead for lessons learned.
This is the second danger of the GOD fiction: disempowerment.
By accepting that "the greatest generation any society has ever produced"
roamed the earth some 50 to 70 years ago, we surrender new ideas and embrace
whitewashed nostalgia. The answers, we acknowledge, are found in the past;
all we have to do is slam on the brakes and throw our SUVs in reverse.
A valuable step in fostering a more forward-thinking approach would be to
expose the GOD for what they were --a mixed bag of good and not so good --like
all such "days." If we don't buy into the mythology, it's harder to convince
us that most or all the solutions lie in the past.
"The simple truth is that the 'good old days' were never that good for the
vast majority of the people who lived them," says author Dennis N. Randall.
"We cannot expect to return to a past that never really existed. History is
written by the victors. It is usually written for, by, and about the wealthy
and influential people of the times."
Historian Howard Zinn reminds us "history involves the selection and
arrangement of facts." Challenging that "selection and arrangement" is but
one way to ensure that the best days are yet to come.
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know" (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.