Were the Good Old Days Really That Good?

Posted on April 13, 2015

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Old people usually think times were better when they were younger. Butter tasted better, sunrises and sunsets were spectacular, love was near perfect, most everyone was well educated, and even the politicians sometimes come off with a shine, rather than exuding a stink like dog poop on your shoe today.

It was a time and a place, a Lake Wobegon, that Garrison Keillor, in his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, liked to remember where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

By contrast, today, in the eyes of our veteran citizens, everything comes up short in just about every category of the human experience. Since your smell and sight and hearing are all on the decline, no scents, sights, or sounds today are as pleasing, memorable, or bright as they were “back then.”

Today’s children are brats, spoiled and self-indulgent. Back then they obeyed their parents and other representatives of authority, like teachers, policemen and pastors for example. And, of course, all senior citizens at one time lived in this fairy tale land.
Back then the Presidents, the Republican Dwight Eisenhower, or the Democrat John F. Kennedy, were noble and heroic, veterans of wars, embodying the American virtues of freedom, liberty, free enterprise, honesty, and were tough with the Communists.

Today’s political leaders are perceived as appeasing our enemies, utterly self-centered, almost Communists and certainly socialists (Ike and Jack would be rising out of their graves if they but could), godless, weak, and sleazy, and those are just the acceptable adjectives I can use in a newspaper column. They are, in our dog doo doo metaphor, the paladins of poop, and stink to high heaven. Bring us back the good old days.

And speaking of dog poop, have you considered the nature and character of contemporary music?

Today it is personified by Hip-Hop artist Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., alias Snoop Dogg, who numbers among his albums Doggystyle released under Death Row Records. It became a No. 1 album, followed by other great hits such as Snoops Upside Ya Head. I won’t quote any lyrics of Hip Hop and Rappers like Snoop Dogg since this is a family column, other than to observe, as Wikipedia described it, that among his many accomplishments, “he was an actual professional pimp in 2003 and 2004, saying ‘That shit was my natural calling and once I got involved with it, it became fun. It was like shootin’ layups for me. I was makin’ ’em every time.’ He goes on to say that upon the advice of some of the other pimps he knew, he eventually gave up pimping to spend more time with his family.” It’s nice to see he turned to something more wholesome.

I would like to say that the early era of Rock and Roll, or music “back then,” was a lot better, but all that comes to mind at the moment is Elvis “the Pelvis” Presley and You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog. But who can forget Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, and the late comers on the scene, the Beatles whose break out on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 made musical history. I mean, can Snoop Dogg and the Rappers come anywhere close to the magnificent Love Me Do or the equally poignant I Want to Hold Your Hand?

Hmmmm, maybe the good old times were kind of like today, although admittedly not as vulgar and gross as today’s habits of speech and behavior. There was a form of self-censorship in place to keep from trespassing into the indecent and outrageous, suggesting that “anything goes” like same sex marriages, transgender sexuality and other forms of behavior I find hard to imagine are acceptable as part of our “liberty of speech.” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would rise out their graves to join Ike and Kennedy in protest if they could see and hear what is done today that passes for the “right to…” and you fill in the blank.

Of course, Kennedy had multiple affairs, including one with the ravishing Marilyn Monroe, Ike has his own English mistress during his time in England as commander of all the free forces preparing for the invasion of Normandy, and Jefferson had his Negro slave concubine, Sally Hemming, and numerous children by her. We all have feet of clay. I don’t know what Adams’s peccadillos consisted of, but apparently Abigail his wife kept him in line.

I think the difference between then and now is that then we knew what was wrong. Today we do just about anything we damn well please and there is no moral or ethical sounding board. There is no Abigail Adams to ask what you were doing out there cruising the taverns of Boston last night.

When Ike told his boss, General of the Army George Marshall, that he wanted to divorce his wife Mamie, Marshall told the immensely popular and great leader in World War II, that he would ruin Ike’s career in the Army and never give him another moment of peace if Ike did such a thing. So much for that preposterous proposal. Ike went on to get elected President twice in the 1950s, and settled down with Mamie and his golf clubs.

I’m sorry to have to write this, especially for you modernists, but we need to be accountable to someone, whether it is Abigail Adams, George Marshall, or let me suggest a higher court. In my case and in the case of billions of people in the world it is our Christian faith. Even Abigail and George had their failings. God, as near as I can tell, has none, and the only judge who can claim that high ground.

As for the music, I’ll still take something like Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo over any crap by Snopp Dogg. It sux, which in my age, was spelled sucks and it was a pretty nasty thing to say.

Now, as one of the great old songs phrased it, Anything Goes. It was written by Cole Porter for a musical in 1934.

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

Proving, I suppose, that Cole Porter knew a thing or two about human nature. It was just expressed in a, so much, more civil and delightful fashion, leaving much to the imagination of the listener or viewer.

He toyed with the risqué of his times and titillated our imagination, but always on the high road, never in the gutter. Perhaps that’s what the “good old times” were all about.

Published as “Were the ‘Good Old Days’ Really That Good?” in my OpEd column, The Port Rail, in Sunday April 12, 2015, The Tuscaloosa News