There is no doubt we live in turbulent times.
We live in near-constant fear of terrorism attacks, a delicate global economy, escalating costs of college tuition that can strangle a family trying to get their children an education and a drug climate that appears to be spiraling out of control with the popularity of prescription medications, methamphetamine and heroin.
We also see a social and political divide in our nation that is tearing us apart at the seams, a bullying epidemic that at times has turned deadly and extreme weather beating us down through hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and whatever else Mother Nature decides to throw our way.
It’s tough out there. No question about it.
But every now and then I will hear someone talk about “the good ol’ days” and how we need to return America to a simpler time, when people knew how to respect each other and you could feel safe at night with your doors unlocked. They wax nostalgically about young men treating women with respect, how music truly meant something and how children never talked back to their parents.
Bull. Like it or not, we are currently living in your celebrated “good ol’ days.”
Want to know why today is better than yesterday? Well, black people and women can vote now. That’s as good a start as I can think of off the top of my head. People of any nationality, religion, gender or race can also go to school together and have an equal opportunity at an education.
That fear we are constantly living in from terror attacks, both foreign and domestic? It is scary. No doubt about it. But I also remember my mother telling me countless times about the drills she had in school when they would hide under their desks in preparation for a nuclear attack from the Soviets. How about bomb drills neighbors would hold together out of fear during World War II?
Want to talk about family values a little bit? Yes, the divorce rate is sickeningly high, and probably rising as we speak. But fathers also take a much more active role in raising their children than ever before and are often in the delivery room when a child is born, as opposed to pacing outside with a pack of cigars clenched tightly in fist.
We also see parents more aware of the food their children are eating and the nutrition that fuels them. I grew up at a time when an afternoon snack during the summer was pulling a bunch of random berries off trees and washing it down with a neighbor’s garden hose while my friends stood guard. I’m kind of doubting that goes on as much these days.
Women, are you getting sexually harassed at work? Yes, that hasn’t stopped, but now women have recourse, and can file a lawsuit and seek some kind of remedy. Think that was available in your “good old days?”
Not so much.
Is our nation more violent than ever? According to a Dec. 19, 2012, article in the Washington Post, written by Neely Tucker, the national homicide rate for 2011 was 4.8 per 100,000 citizens — less than half of what it was in the early years of the Great Depression. The highest it has been in our history was 10.2, in 1980, according to national criminal statistics. In fact, the 2011 homicide rate was the lowest in our country for any year since 1963’s 4.6 per 100,000 citizens.
While 1980 was the worst single year since numbers have been officially recorded, Randolph Ross, a professor of history at Ohio State University, said the worst murder rate in our nation’s history was actually between 1846 and 1887, and that does not include Civil War deaths. Ross said that in Los Angeles in the 1840s, one in every 46 people were murdered.
Yes, there are some difficult issues facing us today, and the loss of personal contact through the proliferation of social media and email is a bit saddening to me. I’m also a little wary that children are not getting enough discipline. But I’d take the trade-off for the positives of today.
Ah, the good ol’ days — unless you were black, a woman, a child or trying to not become a homicide victim.