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I confessed to my seven-year-old son recently that when I was his age I was usually out in the street playing with toy guns and eating a pack of candy cigarettes a day. “Where were your mom and dad?” he asked. I told him the truth: “Entertaining in the den with real guns and real cigarettes.”
Couples with children were seen as blessed, surrounded as they were by forgivable versions of themselves. Children weren’t coddled but cherished and I still remember the pleasure my dad took casually cracking hard-boiled eggs on my head. The term role model did not then exist nor, for that matter, did solar subsidies, the prevailing belief in those days being that Americans could never be cowed into paying for the sun.
Heh, good times.
Government, like everything else, seemed more expensive than today though it was actually cheaper, politicians not yet having discovered that their special brand of magic, like everything else, seems cheaper when paid for with borrowed dollars. Today, of course, Congress’ motto might as well be “We tax your children and pass the savings onto you.”
For conservatives the political landscape was indisputably worse than today, the current Trump-Clinton-Sanders unpleasantness notwithstanding. Gridlock, the next-best thing to freedom, was in scant supply. There were two political parties: the Democrats (liberal) and the Republicans (liberal). Working-class whites were the backbone of the GOP, though then the party still understood this. The explosion of regulations that accompanied Nixon’s presidency notwithstanding, government somehow seemed smaller. Banks were deemed too big to bail.
Nixon was not just in the GOP but of it, launching the absurdly ambitious war on drugs and instituting price controls. Price controls. The term white privilege did not then exist, nor did its attendant warnings about everything from gluten to peanuts. Privacy did not then rank as high among our list of concerns as it does today. And understandably so, given that an innocent online purchase now results in my browser filling up with countless ads for inflatable women.
Down the street from us was Disneyland which, though world famous and immensely popular, had not yet achieved the marketing gold standard of appealing to both Mormons and gays. The end of the Cold War seemed nowhere in sight and it was understood that if some naif chose to go hiking in North Korea that that was his problem, not that of the American taxpayer, who is now expected to facilitate to his return home.
Then as now, a large percentage of people believed that Elvis was still alive but only because they just saw him at the Vegas Hilton. Though hands-down the worst-dressed decade ever, the notion that one dressed up for air travel still existed to a certain extent, unlike today when being bumped up to first class means donning your “fancy” tank top.
Bill Clinton’s presidency was two decades away and Obama’s more than three, so the notion that a haircut and a shoeshine could only get you so far was still widely believed. Middle-class families like the one I grew up in weren’t threatened with bankruptcy by merely living a middle-class lifestyle. NASA was sending men to the moon and back, not issuing press-releases about finding signs of water. On Earth.
But between between inflation, long gas lines, obstacles to trade, Watergate, Vietnam and men like Rockefeller the face of the Republican party, I’m sanguine about my children’s prospects.Published in