Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Way We Were

When we despair about the alt right, Steve Bannon, President Snowflake, the reactionary Supreme Court, nativism, Kris Kobach, Fox News and the Tea Party, it is therapeutic to look back to the 1960's and reflect how much better the country  is now, than it was then.
Pia Guerra 

Look at the election map which put John F. Kennedy into office.

Yes, those are blue, Democratic states: Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, West Virginia and Arkansas. The only two Southern states not won by Kennedy, the Democrat, were Alabama and Mississippi, which went for the third party candidate, Strom Thurmond and some guy named Byrd, the segregationist party. 

Yes, there was a segregationist party. It was fine to say: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever."  Freedom riders going to the South were murdered. Dogs bit and hobnailed booted Southern police bludgeoned Black protesters, fractured skulls. 

But the Democrats needed the Dixiecrats to win and that was because New England and the West Coast were Republican strongholds. 
A John Birch Society stalwart reigned supreme in Manchester, New Hampshire, editor of the Manchester Union Leader. 
Can you imagine a Democratic Party held hostage by Senators from Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina? Can you imagine the compromises Kennedy made daily?  After the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the South defected to the Republican party, and if ever there was a case of good riddance, that had to be it.

But in the 1960's Kennedy and the Democrats dared not speak out to support Martin Luther King and his movement. The Democrats were captive to the racist South.
King and King's people went right on without help from any political leader. As King said, echoing Gandhi: There go my people. If I am to be their leader, I must catch up to them. 

The Communist witch hunts had just petered out. Sex education was verboten. Sex was unclean and suppressed. Women had not yet entered the work force in any substantial numbers and drank themselves numb as bored suburban housewives.

 The federal government insisted on segregated communities by forbidding federal  mortgage home loans to communities like Levittown if they dared sell to coloreds. Segregation was a federal government policy, de facto

The federal government spent its energies prosecuting "Playboy"magazine; books were banned in Boston, like "Lady Chatterly's Lover." Inter racial marriages were illegal in some Southern states, and homosexual behavior was criminal. J. Edgar Hoover, a closeted homosexual, made recordings of Martin Luther King's extramarital trysts, while Kennedy and LBJ got a pass. 

The country had defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and brooked no criticism of itself. 

True, there was a post war economic boom which had been driven by government spending on returning veterans who went to college on the GI bill, got better jobs than their fathers, got inexpensive mortgages on the GI bill and unions protected wages and people with high school educations could marry, support a family, a house and have a summer place with a boat,
But that was all clearly not going to last, once Europe finally recovered from the war and became competitive again. The post WWII prosperity was an anomaly in American history. That rosy time, the source of such nostalgia among Trump voters, was a one off era because it was fueled by unprecedented government spending, which the Republican party has been fighting ever since. It was the closest this country ever got to a socialized state and the Koch family has been suffering from that post traumatic stress ever since. 

It could not last, given the forces against it; and it became a crumbling, degraded, cesspool, our America. 
Then the wave of assassinations. Black men had been assassinated--Medgar Evers, Malcom X, and that didn't even rate a headline, but when John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy got shot, Americans began to wonder if there was a problem. 
Oh, there was a problem all right, and that became even more clear when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Of the three, King mattered most, historically. Neither Kennedy did much to change the country; King and his people changed the country.

Almost as soon as JFK died, the war in Vietnam exploded. Oh, that was a lovely time. American boys were being drafted, trained as remorseless killers and killing babies in Southeast Asia. 

If I had to choose to live in today's America vs. that America, I'd take today in a heartbeat, even with President Snowflake. 

Pia Guerra 

Eventually, there's a thaw.
Pia strikes again


  1. Mad Dog,
    Can't argue with the point that we've made remarkable gains since the 60's-things are better now even with President Snowflake at the helm. Back then the white male reigned supreme and the line about "Equality for all" was about as relevant as "Let them eat cake". It really is amazing how quickly women, gays and minorities have made it out of their homes, closets and enclaves. But let's not get to carried away Mad Dog-these groups are still not on par, on most measures, with the straight white male. That remains the winning combination, but change continues. Maybe by the time our grandchildren come of age "Equality for all" will actually be a true statement...(Well, provided Snowflake doesn't blast us back to the stone age)..

  2. Maud,
    I'll have to read more about those measures. I'm as guilty as anyone of judging the world from the pinhole through which I see it--like feeling the elephant through the tent--but from my perspective, the medical profession has shifted toward a female majority profession, and colleges are now majority female. You will say women get to the workplace and get paid less for the same job, but I'm not sure how we know that. From what I can see, women get paid less because they opt to work less--often for excellent reasons--and I wonder if they do not advance because they opt to not be as fully committed to their jobs, so the man who has gone to every meeting and out of town conference gets advanced. This may be completely wrong, but the question arises from observation and I wonder if any objective studies have been done.
    Mad Dog