“C’mon people, let the world begin
We’ve got a future and it’s charging in.” — Paul McCartney
When I was a child, I spent a great deal of time in speech therapy. It’s one of those long stories that probably could be told on a different day, but in this case one of the speech therapists I worked with had a husband that owned a toy store. Just the idea of a toy store by itself is an oddity these days as Toys R’ Us is a thing of the past.
This was a special toy store. It was a sole proprietor that made nearly as much money repairing toys as he did selling them. We used to bring in my miniature record player all the time to be repaired. It was one of those that showed a film strip at the same time as playing the audio on record. It turned into a record player I used to play the one 45 I purchased.
Nobody repairs toys anymore. Heck, they aren’t even sold within a single toy store anymore for the most part. Now, you have to go to your behemoths like Wal-Mart, Target, Sam’s, and Cosco. We can add delivering milk and ice door to door on that list of stuff we just don’t see anymore. If we all sit around for long enough we could probably spend days listing the numbers of things we just don’t see anymore.
It could be Blockbuster or Hollywood Video as well. These trips past amnesia lane can also include technology we just don’t see anymore. Anyone dust off their Beta machine or the 8 track player? At this point, you are probably wondering where this is going.
There is a significant cottage industry surrounding nostalgia. They still sell records and turntables. You could probably even find one of those toys I referenced above. Unfortunately, stuff is not the only thing we find in the marketplace as far as nostalgia goes. Unfortunately, it also exists in our politics.
Nostalgia helped create MAGA. It is the A on the end that creates the issue. Again. If America used to be great then we have to ask exactly who was it great for. See, there lies the rub. Boil it all down and you discover this is the basis of the conservative platform. They want to return to the days when things were simpler and they were firmly in control.
That presents any number of challenges. First, how good were things really? For most of us, things may have been simpler, but were they any better? If you are a white Anglo Saxon Protestant then things probably were better for you. If you somehow didn’t fit in that group then things weren’t necessarily great for you.
The second issue is that our memories are not what they once were. Conservatives take full advantage of that. If we were in that fortunate class above then things may have been great more than 50 years ago. The question is why. People find it harder to get ahead now. The question is why. As the middle class gets squeezed people look for scapegoats. They conveniently give some to you, but are they right ones? The top income tax bracket under Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican) was over 90 percent. Few people remember that because none of us were in the top income tax bracket. Wealth wasn’t so stratified. Now it is and yet they continue to blame outsiders for the problem. It’s a nice misdirection.
The final problem is our inability to differentiate between when change happens organically and when it is a direct result of government action. No bureaucrat forced people to stop repairing toys. No bureaucrat mandated that people stop getting ice delivered door to door and the government certainly didn’t kill the milk man. These are things that evolved naturally over time.
Obviously, no politician is hankering for the return of the milk man, but there are some talking points that sound just as ludicrous when you stop to think about them. Why are we making so much of a fuss over coal? Modern homes are not heated with coal. Our cars and boats don’t use coal. Heck, very few trains use coal. Furthermore, coal is a finite resource. It doesn’t burn cleanly and most people stopped using it. So, why are politicians fighting so hard to keep it alive?
The reason is that they can score cheap political points by blaming the opposition for its demise. Coal miners are going the way of milk men and ice delivery guys. Yes, change in history is painful temporarily. Milk men had to find new work. Toy store owners had to figure something else out. Ice delivery boys couldn’t do it anymore. What they don’t tell you is that while the transition was hard, nine times out of ten the displaced people found something better. Coal miners can almost certainly find something safer and better for their long-term health.
This is just one small example of how one party is focused on the future and another one is focused on the past. One wants to find the solutions to the current problems and the problems coming around the corner. The other wants you to remember the past fondly and allow them to bring back the version swimming in their heads. You know the one. It has African Americans and ethnic minorities knowing their place. It has women with their mouths shut in the background. It has all members of the LGTBQ+ community going back in the closet. Then, American can be made great AGAIN. We should always ask who exactly America was great for. So, I say make America great. Leave off the AGAIN. Leave it off because we acknowledge that America has never been great for everyone. If we focus on the problems of the here and now maybe it can be.