More than a few times lately I have heard someone comment that we have never been in more difficult times. “Unprecedented,” is a word I have heard people use to describe this moment in history. One person said he just wanted things to be “precedented” again. I am not sure that is even a word, but I get what he was saying.
Before we spend too much time pining for the “gold old days” when things felt more normal, however, we perhaps need to examine this idea that these are the worst of times.
When I hear a wish to return to better times, I can’t help but wonder exactly which days of yore people are yearning for. I suspect it might be different points in history for different persons.
Should one long for the days before COVID 19 reared its ugly head and disrupted lives worldwide? Perhaps that would be a good starting point. However, lest we forget, The U.S. government saw not one but two shutdowns in 2018, separated by just two and a half weeks in January and February. Granted, there was a royal wedding to celebrate, but there was also a horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla. With sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. in nearly 50 years, landed in the fall. It came two weeks after Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on the Carolinas. And, for those lamenting the state of air travel these days, a recent New York Times report showed that airline service was not much better or more reliable before the pandemic.
Should we go back a few more years and revisit the rash of shootings of black men and women by police officers that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement? Maybe some of the men who have faced the wrath of the Me Too movement of the 2000s have longed for the days before women felt so darned empowered. Business as usual was just fine for them.
If we could travel back, would we want to return to the time before the Civil Rights movement? The Vietnam War? World War I or II? That would take us back closer to the Civil War where brother literally fought brother. There was also a worldwide Great Depression in the 1930s. The polio outbreak doesn’t seem like a good time to revisit, either.
Again, I understand people’s wanting things to get back to what seemed like normal to them. But, every era has had its ups and downs. People in every decade have had reasons to seek to return to the ones before because it is human nature to wax nostalgic.
I am a child of the sixties and seventies. At that time, adults seemed to want to return to what they perceived as the Fabulous Fifties. But, according to an article published by the Greensboro, NC, News and Record, the Fifties were not all that fabulous. MYTH: There were no social deviants in the 1950s. Good girls didn’t get pregnant, almost no one was gay, and there was less crime. TRUTH: Girls were less likely to have children out of wedlock, though it definitely happened, and homosexuality was less openly practiced, though we all knew LGBTQ people existed. It only appeared that times were better. There truly was less crime, but car crashes were a leading cause of premature deaths.
So, how should we look at current struggles? Probably the same way people have always viewed the problems they faced. We should do the best we can and hope for things to get better. And, if history is any indicator, they will. Until they don’t.