There’s a song that goes “Stay right here, because these are the good old days.” The past can often seem better than the present.
Our country has seen it’s share of the “good old days”, with times like the “Gay Nineties” and the “Roaring 20′s”. In fact, our country had problems in the 1890′s, with an economic depression, and the war with Spain going on. But a lot of people were also prosperous, and the cities were coming alive with electric wiring, electric lights, machines that played music, invention and innovation. It wasn’t until the Great Depression, though, that the 1890′s were looked back on and considered an especially happy time.
The Roaring 20′s is a different matter. They did roar. The prohibition of alcoholic beverages was expanding across Europe and the U.S. passed a law against alcohol in 1920, and the era of gangsters, bootleggers, speak-easys, flapper girls and much more, was on. We had a sexual revolution with the casting aside of much of the old Victorian inhibitions and codes of dress. All that came to an end with the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression.
We were still trying to climb out of that depression in 1941 when Japan attacked our Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and we entered World War Two, and at the end of it in 1945, when we and our allies had won, we finally climbed out of the worst depression in our history.
So, the “good old days” depends on what things were like before them and may not really have been all that good, it’s just that they were a lot better than the bad old days. With the exception of… The period from about 1960 to 1980, maybe up to 1985. Everyone was working and making a good wage. Everyone could buy a nice home. The natural beauty of most of the country was still unspoiled, and our population density was low. Prices were reasonable, everyone who wanted one and could drive, had a car, gasoline was cheap, we were on good terms with most of the world, and Americans were loved and respected everywhere that our soldiers and sailors had fought and died to free people from Fascism. The Open Road was the song of America. We were a prosperous and proud people at last. THOSE were the Good Old Days.
Nothing lasts forever and the reasons for the way things are now are many, but they can all be summed up as just our inability to hold onto a good thing because we take too much for granted, and don’t look to the future or take lessons from the past.
We love war too much, too, I think. When our movies aren’t glorifying the battles fought in history against each other, they have us battling aliens from outer space or some dread disease that threatens all of us. We love to fight. This is why, even after the Second World War ended, we got into another one a few years later in Korea, and then another one shortly after Korea in Vietnam and Cambodia, then several in the Near East.
It’s a simple thing. If you want to have good old days, you can’t rely on your country to provide them for you, because the people who run it are most likely unconcerned with your personal happiness. It’s only when we as individuals mentally separate ourselves from identifying with the state of our nation that we can see our lives clearly and find our independent ways to personal happiness. Just because poverty surrounds us doesn’t mean we have to wallow in misery with the rest of them. That, instead, is the time to seek out those who still can smile, to learn to make the best of what’s available, to stop complaining and start looking for the silver linings in all the clouds. Because they’re there if you look for them. Nothing is ever all bad.
It sure helps when others around you are doing well, when your nation is doing well, but you can’t count on that. When you want a helping hand, the best place to look for one is at the end of your own arms. Our best good old days are the ones we create for ourselves.