Whose America do you live in?

When I saw that headline in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, I thought, yessssss! Finally, they get it.

Then — uh-oh. Who is the “we” Will Bunch is talking about?

When he writes about America, his column is the predictable porridge of pessimism and grievance. In this one, the world is coming to an end because Roe vs. Wade may be reversed. Possible explanation: It’s the only world he knows.

Since he graduated Brown University in 1981, he was probably born in 1960, which means he was about 12 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe opinion. So, basically, he grew up with it and that’s all he knows.

On the other hand, I was one year into my career at the Philadelphia Daily News  in 1973, meaning there was no Roe for the first 31 years of my life. 

So I know America before, and after, Roe. 

Relax — this won’t be about abortion. 

You know, there are a lot of people — like me — who feel today’s America isn’t “my”  America.

What was my America?

*The America I grew up in knew the difference between men and women and knew there were differences between men and women. Fluidity was something you checked with a dipstick.

*In my America, after incurring a debt, people paid it without expecting someone else to pay for them, certainly not the government. In my America, we quoted President John F. Kennedy’s words: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Are there any Democrats saying that today?

*“Human rights” were those enumerated in the Constitution. They did not include free college, health care, food, shelter or abortion. These benefits may be desirable to you, but they are not  “rights,” any more than I have a “right” to date Katy Perry just because I think it would be nice. (Note to girl friend: Just kidding to make a point.)

*In my America, there were no participation trophies. Little League and Pop Warner kept score. So did you, when you were playing stickball or marbles or Double Dutch with your friends.

*Neighborhoods were strong and parents looked out for all kids, not just their own. 

*God was in school and metal detectors were not.

*Math was not racist. Nor were ice cream truck songs, Kate Smith, Dr. Seuss, apple pie, nor grammar.

*Bicyclists rode in traffic without needing moats for protection.

*Military service was a duty (that many shirked).

*“Play” meant being outside with other children, not gripping a joy stick in your bedroom. Helicopter parents were grounded, Reading meant getting actual books out of the library.

*Children were neither suicidal nor confused about their gender. Even gay kids knew if they were male or female.

*Parents respected teachers who taught children the 3 Rs and not their social justice philosophy.

*Respect for authority was the default position.

*My America didn’t have “underserved” communities. We had slums, or ghettos. 

*There was no “food insecurity,” but there was hunger. We also had “relief,” or “welfare,” and food stamps.

*At the stores we had Green Stamps that you pasted into booklets until you had enough to claim a prize. Today we have “cash back” credit cards.

*In my America, phones were attached to the wall, and didn’t contain cameras or computers.

*We did not have “male toxicity,” but we did have men who won wars by risking their lives.

*Cops were supported, not hated. 

*Words like “ableism,” “heteronormative,” “classism,” and “misgendered” did not exist.

*Mayors did not surrender portions of their downtowns to be declared no-cop “independent” zones. 

*We had “illegal aliens.” The word “immigrant” was reserved for those who entered our country legally.

*“Returning citizens” meant people coming back from Europe, not from Graterford.

*When Dad had his two-week vacation, the family went on trips together and there was no contact with his office.

*Here’s an 8-minute video about growing up in the ‘50s. (My neighborhood was urban, ulike the ones shown, but our activities were similar) https://youtu.be/dZb5xVi6GFw 

*We waited for a late August TV Guide, so you could see the new season offerings on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS. My America did not have 500+ cable and internet channels offering more than you could see in two lifetimes.

*In my America, life expectancy was lower than now. Wait! Sorry, life expectancy went down in 2020. That’s a first.

*In professional sports, the players stuck with the same team, year after year. The millionaires were the owners, not the players.

*In my America, rock ‘n’ roll lyrics could be sung in Aunt Janie’s presence. They might titillate, but they didn’t debase.

*Before most homes had televisions, people spent their free time listening to the radio or reading the newspaper. Before computers,  people played cards and board games.

*Families ate dinner together.

*Teenagers learned to drive a stick shift because there was no Uber to chauffeur them around.

*Violent crime was almost nonexistent among professional athletes.

*In my America, Black activists demanded integration, not segregated dorms, graduations, lunchrooms, and social areas.

*Liberals worshipped the Supreme Court because they liked the outcomes, in my America.

*We never ran out of baby formula, and one parent’s salary from one job could support a family.

And, yes, we did have nostalgia about earlier days.

(Hat tip to anonymous friends who contributed some memories.)

9 thoughts on “Whose America do you live in?”

    Good job as always. You’re gonna get hit with a flood of memories from all of the bloggers. I’ll be first.
    First, that was an interesting piece from you tube. Can’t show everything, naturally. I’m curious as to who had the first T.V. in the neighborhood. Was the screen a hex, round or rectangular picture tube. ( cathode ray tube actually ) Who had the first COLOR set? Remember the sliding color screens ? How many and what colors ?
    Was the Nelson family old hands back then or were they just getting started? How about Elvis. How new was he then ?
    My neighborhood: We still had horses on our street. Our milk man had a horse drawn wagon ( with ice blocks ), then he showed up with a brand new milk truck. Still with ice. Those first days, the people at the end of his route got their delivery late because everybody had to ‘come see Tony’s milk truck’ ! How did I remember his name?
    So. Where did we go wrong ? When ? We had the prosperous ’50s after the war. The country was united and the elected officials in D.C. were known as ‘statesmen’, because they too cared about America.
    In the neighborhoods we had parades. It seemed for every reason. The Memorial Day parade was the biggest and best attended. Every time the Stars and Stripes went by, you stood proudly and placed you hand over your heart. Does that happen today ?
    Where / When did we go wrong ? We were proud and full of America back then. What happened ?
    BTW: Memorial Day is coming. Fly those Flags and salute our Veterans and active military.

  2. Beautiful, Stu. Some wonderful memories you evoked. Yeah, there were bad things happening back then, too; but as William F. Buckley, Jr. so wonderfully put it many years ago: “We are sinners seeking to be saints.” Now I fear we are sinners seeking to be worse sinners. How did we go from “Father Knows Best” to naked dating on TV? In 1939 there was an incredible dust-up in Hollywood over the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” in the closing scene of “Gone With The Wind.” A swear word, in a movie? Unheard of! Now I cannot watch a movie with my grandchildren, never knowing when someone will drop the F bomb, or a scene will cut to a moaning couple making the beast with two backs. Maybe what we see happening to our beloved country is what all great civilizations go through in their decline and journey to ultimate destruction. I am really happy to be an old man, but I weep for my sons and their children.

  3. I’m not a “Bible Thumper,” but I believe, and said it before, the absence of God is our problem. Nothing can fill that void, but Him. “Thanks for the memories,” Stu. What a great comparison! In addition some memories of mine:

    Alphabet Building Blocks, (passed down from the oldest son, 1930’s). Mom saved a few and gave to me.

    The Baker on Saturday morning’s who’s name was my mother’s maiden. He was invited in for breakfast and much later to a family reunion.

    I was a soda jerk in a corner drug store, sliced lunch meat in a deli/grocery, cleaned a butchers block with salt. Also had a Bulletin paper route with 80 daily customers.

    We’d occasionally look through the white pages for long names…one was 26 letters.

    Listening to the Phillies out on the front step/stoop. Every kind of stick ball in the street. Real paint was applied for bases by my brothers. Playing outdoors was the thing to do.

    Poker games and craps the summer of 55 or 56 in our garage.

    Remember Gillette Friday Night Fights? And Pabst Blue Ribbon on Tuesday’s? Speaking of the rotary phone our number was Livingston 9- 2020!

    Thanks again!

  4. I agree 100% ,This is the result of college fueled Marxism which is destroying this country like slow moving cancer.I really miss the America we grew up in.

  5. There is some great stuff here, Stu, but of course it’s providing the predictable red meat for the Right Wingers, who have “white-washed” “the good old days”. When homosexuality was a crime, punishable by jail time. When upstanding, professional Black people could not buy a home in their desired neighborhood simply because they were Black. Legally. Jews too were denied access to homes and jobs of their choosing, like the famed Main Line with “restrictive” real estate agreements. Legal. Qualified women were denied jobs because they were women. Legal. Ditto, people with disabilities, many who could not even ride public trans because there were no reasonable accommodations. A Senator named Joseph McCarthy terrorized people because of their political beliefs and devastated lives. Legally. True, we didn’t have metal detectors in schools. That was before the Heller decision and the NRA’s relentless pursuit of flooding our streets with guns. Before the Right Wing outrage machine and fearmongering turned our political opponents into enemies and needy people, especially those of color into free-loaders.

    1. I mentioned nostalgia at the end, which was my acknowledgment that this was the sunshine view. I was keenly aware of not mentioning segregation, for one thing.
      So, tomorrow’s column will be my Bad America, and thanks for your input.

Comments are closed.