Image from StraightArrowBison
I, like many Americans, have today off. And other than the possibility of finally seeing the new Star Trek movie, I have nothing on the agenda. I suppose part of today is supposed to be spent on paying remembrance to those military men who have lost their lives in the defense of the country. But I come from a family who hasn't had any of those in at least 100 years.
Of course I am grateful to those who have. But I'm only able to have a vague thanks because of absolutely no experience with these things. But for some reason, I did start thinking of times past. Now that I can measure my life in decades rather than just years, I've been thinking back in increments of 10.
In 1979 I was 13 years old. I remember that there was a (now famous) malaise blanketing the country. The economy wasn't so good, and not very many people were happy with President Jimmy Carter. A lot of time was spent talking about rising interest rates. Homes--which by today's standards were pretty cheap--were difficult to buy because of the jacked up interest.
Music kind of blew at this point, with the death of disco, and no suitable replacement on the horizon. The escapist fare on TV was growing stale. Star Wars had come and gone, but the sequel had not yet been released. Everybody just seemed bummed out. 1980 would bring a new (sort of illusory) dawn with Ronald Reagan, whose presence on the scene was not altogether unlike Barack Obama's. For all of the conservative mockery of Obama's "anointed one" reputation, Reagan's wasn't all that different.
Ten years went by, and by 1989 we were in another malaisy-type time. Another recession. Reagan was history and George H.W. Bush wasn't all that inspiring. Music, movies and TV were a bit better though. Unlike today, politics did not seem to overpower everything else. It was there--with the Iran-Contra hearings and such--but I don't remember deep divisions between people who called themselves Democrats or Republicans. People seemed more likely to think that, hey, the other side won. But it's only for four or eight years, and then the other side gets a shot. It didn't seem like the very existence of the United States was on the line, one way or another.
1999 is of course a little easier to envision. We'd finally hit the magic year when we were supposed to be in air cars or jetpacks. But the world wasn't all that different yet. Bill Clinton was pretty popular, even after the Monica Lewinsky fiasco. The ruckus being raised by people like Rush Limbaugh seemed pretty fringy. Opposition to the President all seemed to have an air of the ridiculous. The economy seemed to be just fine, terrorism was known but not exactly terrifying. It rated somewhere between a typical plane crash and a natural disaster.
The common wisdom that politics and religion were topics that could get you into hot water were well known, but didn't carry anywhere near the same weight they do now. When, the next year, Al Gore faced off against George W. Bush, the gravity of the decision just wasn't there. It was a typically right-vs.-left decision, with the attendant sniping of course. But the crushing "national security" weight of it didn't really occur to us.
Wouldn't it be something if we could send a message back somehow, with the high and low points of what has happened? I'm not talking so much about specifics, just some way to tell our former selves that these decisions were more important than we thought. That the whole "restoring dignity to the White House" meme wasn't only unimportant in the scheme of things, but that it wasn't gonna happen any time soon.
Anyway, this is a meandering, rather pointless post I suppose. That'll happen when you write after enjoying a Memorial Day pool party fueled by malt liquor. So I'll just wrap it up right here and wish you all a great holiday.