The Good Ol' Days

There were no good ol' days.

The world has not gone to hell.

Things are not worse "now-a-days."

To what utopian past are the people who make these claims comparing the present? When people talk about how bad things have gotten on the floor of Congress, that politics have "gone down the drain," do they really not know United States History? Do they not know that Charles Sumner was beaten with a cane on the Senate floor?  I'm sure they are unaware that he was preceded in being beaten with a cane on the floor of Congress by Matthew Lyon, Horace Greely and Josiah Grinnell.  That didn't even include people like William Stanberry who was caned in the street by Gov. Sam Houston or the multiple fistfights and brawls that have broken out in Congress.  Those are just the canings.  Do these people, who look back to America's Glory days, back before we supposedly "lost our way," consider it glorious to shoot political rivals to death? According to Joanne Freeman, at the beginnings of our United States, losers in political elections would often challenge the winner to a duel. In total, counting petty and professional quarrels, more than twenty politicians were killed in duels, most notably former Treasury Secretary and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton killed by then Vice President Aaron Burr.

People talk of government corruption and, of course, about how bad things have gotten. Politicians certainly haven't gotten crooked. Have people forgotten Nixon already? It's somewhat understandable to forget that Warren G. Harding had the most corrupt presidential administration in our country's history, but Grant's was nearly as bad and no one seems to mention that. Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, before either was president, committed what we would now consider treasonous acts by feeding confidential information to the French government. The aforementioned Aaron Burr was actually tried for treason after trying to steal land from the United States and create his own kingdom.  Eldbridge Gerry spawned the name "Gerrymandering" after manipulating the boundaries of his congressional district so much that it looked like a salamander. The last four men mentioned hold places on the roster of our revered team of Founding Fathers.

What time period was so crime-free that it now terrifies people to think about how much more violent the streets, schools and homes have become? It certainly hasn't been any time in the past 42 years. We have the lowest crime rate since 1969 (when hippies were putting flowers in gun barrels) and the lowest violent crime rate since 1975. America certainly wasn't low crime from 1882 to 1968, when nearly five thousand men, women and children were lynched to disenfranchise blacks. It's difficult to find an exact number of how many black women were raped during that time for the same purpose. It was a lot; virtually all unreported. I'm sure there aren't too many of the black community who look back and see glory days of years gone by.  It seems that only whites can look back and see the utopian past, but it's not like white people were unscathed by crime.  In the 1930s, eight FBI agents were killed by gangsters and outlaws. Oh, and wasn't that decade particularly high in crime because of The Great Depression? That doesn't sound so glorious. It was halted by the even less glorious attack on Pearl Harbor. If we go back further than 1868, we will find ourselves in the bloodiest war ever to wage on this continent, costing over a million casualties. Soldiers on both sides incessantly pillaged and looted. They sometimes raped and murdered civilians as they swept through towns. The people would just have to hope that armies didn't burn their whole town to the ground or use it as a war zone.  It had all the things that you might expect from a war. The streets sure weren't safer then.

Folks who reminisce about the Good ol' Days believe that issues today have bred a new type of criminal.  A bloodthirsty sociopath whose selfish desires have annulled his humanity. Only today could produce such a monster, they believe.  For some reason, old folks seem to think psychos are more prevalent now. Psychopaths are hiding in all the old people's closets waiting to rape, kill and rob them.  I guess they don't know about Baby Face Nelson, who fired automatic weapons into crowds of women and children as he literally cackled with laughter. He also killed three of the aforementioned FBI agents. Dick Hickock and Perry Smith broke into a Kansas house in 1959 and blew the heads off a family of four with a shotgun in a pathetic robbery.   Ed Gein killed women in the 1950s and kept their heads as bedposts and he wasn't the first, or the worst, serial killer. As near as we can tell, there hasn't been any change in percentage of serial killers in the population.

When people claim that scams are everywhere "nowadays," do they realize that Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme got its name from Charles Ponzi, a con man in the early 1900s? Con men used to mail instead of email, but the scams remain the same.  The Nigerian 419 scam used to be called the Spanish Prisoner in the late 19th century. Scam tactics date back to at least 300BCE when Ancient Greeks perfected insurance scams on Maritime vessels.

Like I said before, it seems that only white people talk about the good old days, and it mostly seems to have existed in 1950s and maybe early 60s. Think Mad Men. It amazes me that women say anything about any time other than the last 20 years as being anything but degrading, but they do.  Old women frequently accuse the world of going to "hell in a handbasket."  I guess they liked it when they were known as nothing but housewives and secretaries, and could be nothing but housewives or secretaries.  There were exceptions, yes, but not too many. During that same time, the richest were taxed 91% of their income, so it's not like Obama's tax hikes are anything but wimpy when compared to taxes under the Eisenhower administration. I suppose people didn't care about having their phones illegally tapped by Hoover and his FBI, having their first amendment rights trampled on, being ostracized or blacklisted for being communist or even accused of being a communist. Do these old white men not remember that the world almost ended during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962? We almost blew up the world. That is not an exaggeration. For two weeks, almost every American was glued to the TV, preparing, if necessary, to die, while the government lied and said school children could cover their heads under their desks to avoid serious injury from a thermonuclear explosion. Good Ol' Days indeed.

Looking back at writings from the past, we see that a group from every generation has argued this point. People are always fearing for the future and claiming that some great doom is unavoidable.  So far, for the past 250 years, we've managed to avoid this unavoidable doom. And while we were fending it off, we also improved every aspect of living.


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