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March 6th, 2006

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11:59 am - What we have lost
I was a child during the late 60s and early 70s, one of the first members of Generation X. In the comic books I read (here's an image from Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 (April 1970)), to sitcoms, including All in the Family, and The Jeffersons (which together featured impressive portrayals of rape, drag queens, gay bashing, and transsexuals and were my first introduction to all of these). Liberal was mainstream, social justice, support for unions (I remember the old "Look for the Union Label" commercials), and similar wonders were part of my everyday world. Conservatives were obviously wrong and not only that, they were outmoded and doomed to fade away.

When I was an infant, the Johnson welfare reforms (which were essentially killed off in the 80s and early 90s) literally halved poverty in the US in less than 4 years. By 1970, religious fundamentalism was largely absent from public life and people (on the east coast at least) were generally somewhat embarrassed to admit to actually having sincere religious beliefs. I think about that lost era and am very sad. Great (but very slow and exceedingly uneven) strides have been made in women's and gay rights since that time, but that era started both (in post WWII America) and the status of black people has not particularly improved (at least by all economic indicators) since that time. Progress has certainly been made on many fronts, but much has been lost and the greatest loss of all from my PoV, is the fact that for the past 25 years, only fringe candidates for national office have dared to express actually progressive values. Many people are still working for them, but the widespread concensus that these values are a good thing has been lost and that greatly limits the ability to make changes or (especially) for anyone to fight the growing reactionary tide in this nation.

People talk about the political pendulum swinging back and forth. By any reasonable measure, this has not happened since Reagan and the fundys came to power in 1980. Clinton was at best barely a moderate, and liberals are nearly extinct in the US. I was reminded of all of this when pyat posted the following sequence in his journal

This is all from a 1967 issue of Mad Magazine. Imagine something similar showing up in anything except the most extreme examples of the radical press, as opposed to in a magazine mostly read by teens.

Then, the vast majority of the hippies became yuppies and worst of all suburban fundys, and the members of my own generation either followed suit or embraced cynicism or its close cousin libertarianism and decided that the world or at least the US was doomed and the best policy was to get what they could before everything fell apart. It's both sad and disturbing to consider that by any measures that is meaningful to me, the only time the US was a worthwhile nation was before I turned 18, not because I am lost in nostalgia, but because the US hasn't been even remotely that liberal since that time. I grew up assuming that progressive politics and liberal values were normal, and am continually puzzled by the fact that so few of the other people who grew up in a similar environment have kept any of those views. Instead, we have another war filled with pointless death and numerous war crimes, a government controlled by fundys and neocons, and other things that would have been almost unimaginable 30 years ago. This nation has become a vile and reactionary disgrace and if it does not greatly improve soon then I sincerely hope it collapses so that it can not longer inflict its misery on the rest of the world.
Current Mood: angryangry

(13 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
Those are amazing images. It is, indeed, astonishing to think that such a photo essay appeared in a magazine intended for a teenaged audience.

I wish I had an excuse to show this to my class. Alas, I am not teaching anything on American politics!
[User Picture]
Date:March 19th, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
what are you teaching? there may be a way to link it in...
[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2006 09:07 pm (UTC)
Amazing, I remember the same and I still think we may pull out of this yet. My husband and I talk about imigrating to New Zealand if it does not. Freedom is so precious, yet we willingly give it up at every turn as if living without it is the sack cloth and ashes to atone for the 60's and 70's. I know many young baby boomers just older than I that don't understand the fuss, that the order established recently is great.
Date:March 6th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
Nods. My partner & I (who are both about your age) talk over exactly the same sense of loss... as if our nation has been going more & more deeply insane since we came of age.
I too think often of *remember the union label* & the drive toward a more ecologically & socially resoponsible society in the 70's.

I'm not sure I'd call Clinton a moderate tho- he was no friend to civil liberties, that's for sure.
[User Picture]
Date:March 7th, 2006 04:34 am (UTC)
Yes. Yes, and yes.

I feel cored, betrayed. I was promised a world that would be better for my sex, for my lifestyle choices, for everyone. At this point, I think it would be best if it all just blew away. It's not helping anyone anymore. It lives only to help itself. There is no We, The People anymore. Just We, The People with the Money. But maybe it's always been like that and back then I was too stupid to know the difference.

Or maybe, the people with the money just don't give a shit about anyone else anymore.
[User Picture]
Date:March 7th, 2006 08:39 am (UTC)
As I've said in previous posts, it goes in waves. there are small waves like when there are republicans vs. democrats in the white house. (and it aslo depends on what kind of republicans and democrats are in the white house) But then there are the larger waves. For instance, the last time, before the sixties and seventies, that the country was "looser" was the "roaring" twenties. ANd unfortunately, I don't know enough about the 20th century to tell you exactly when the wave before that was. But if I'm remembering correctly, it was somewhere in the last 30 years of the 20th century. But I could be wrong.

Mind you, I'm not at expert at this and this IS just my own tiny, uneducated opinion. And, I must admit, there is a part of me that WANTS to beleive this (which could cloud my judgement) so that there will be a hope in me that there will come again a time in my life where "liberals will rule the world". (I can dream, can't I?)
Date:March 7th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
From my perspective, this has to do with the fact that no true liberal consensus was ever established in this country. Liberals managed to establish a thin majority in the legislatures and the courts and then imposed their views on the rest of the country without bothering to make the effort to convince the rest of the country. The conservatives did their legwork and organized (especially in rural areas) and as a result we have a country that is roughly evenly split along urban/rural lines with the suburbs as swing areas. It's worth noting that rural areas aren't inherently conservative. We had the Prairie Populists in Kansas and the Progressives here in Wisconsin as well as the Canadian experience of universal health care starting in the rural provinces of Alberta and Sesketchawan.
[User Picture]
Date:March 7th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC)
Urg. The above was posted by me, Ken Heronheart. Somehow my browser had logged me out of LJ.
[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2006 08:49 pm (UTC)
Can I please send the link to this message to twistedchick for her Free Speech Zone? Those photographs are powerful. And yes, I remember when MAD used to have things like that all the time.

Here's something for you in case you haven't seen it: From 2peculiar.
[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC)
Can I please send the link to this message to twistedchick for her Free Speech Zone?

Please do, more people should be reminded of what we have lost.
[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
Interesting essay. I'm also pleased that others have noticed that South Park is vile and politically scary. I know a number of people with views as far to the left as mine who watch and enjoy it - I am baffled and horrified.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
I came here from Twistedchick's blog. Thank you for posting this. I'm also a child of the 60s and 70s. I'm horrified watching our country's march into intolerance.

May I post a link to this in my own blog?
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
Please do. Also, if you are interested, I have a somewhat related post on changes I've noticed in media images of men and masculinity from the 60s-70s to the 90s-00s here.

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