Living in The Best of Times


Ah, the good old days. You know, back in the day, when kids didn’t sass, teachers were revered, neighborhoods were like villages, and the beat cop stopped by the porch for lemonade. The time before   violence and fear was invented.

But hold your horses, before we get too nostalgic, are times really worse than they have ever been? Let’s step away from our televisions and trending topic feeds and take a look-see.

Consider the 1950s: The median family income was $28,000; life expectancy was 68 years (vs. 79 today); and tuberculosis, syphilis, whooping cough, measles, and polio were daily health threats. One reason for poorer health was lower-quality housing: about a third of houses still lacked decent indoor plumbing (compared with fewer than 2 percent today), and air conditioning was a rare luxury. There was no Heimlich maneuver; no CPR; no open-heart surgery; and no effective treatment for epilepsy, depressive disorders, or migraine headaches. Remember whiplash? There were no headrests, seat belts, or airbags in cars. The Korean War broke out, and 1.5 million American men were drafted to fight, and more than 36,000 died (five times the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq). Women were excluded from the draft, but also from executive positions in industry and government, and there was just one woman U.S. senator in 1950. A decade before Selma and the victories of the civil rights movement, blacks across much of the country were disenfranchised, segregated, and discriminated against at every turn. Homosexuality was illegal.

There may have been prayer in school back in the day, but there were also lynch mobs, communist witch hunts, segregation, and open anti-Semitism. There was child abuse and spousal abuse—but it went mostly unreported, unnoticed, and unpunished—and it was OK to bar women and people of color from various professions and to pay them far less than their due in any work situation.

The 1960s kicked off with the assassination of the U.S. president and ended with the Vietnam war. This month, 50 years ago (July 15, 1966 ), a Chicago drifter named Richard Speck broke into a Chicago townhouse and killed eight student nurses—women he had never met. According to Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, “Women today recall how as little girls they practiced hiding under their beds so that when the killer came, they would be ready.” The same night the nurses were murdered, six Chicago policeman were shot during the race riots on the West Side. The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was in town and was being criticized for his remarks on police brutality. Sound familiar?

Today, people are living longer with more real income and more security than they did a year ago, a decade ago, or at any time in history. Global personal safety is at a record high. The number of people killed in wars last year was at most a few thousand—a tragedy, but only for a minuscule portion of the world’s population—unlike the tens of millions killed every year during the world wars of last century. Violent crime and murder rates are declining almost everywhere in the world.

There’s never been a safer time to be a kid in America. They’re being killed less and getting hit by cars less. Missing children statistics are way down.  In fact, the likelihood of any of these scenarios happening is infinitesimally small.

Here’s a bit of news: life has never been simple. The good times and the bad times have been parts of every decade since the beginning of time.  There has always been struggle and strife. In 2016, we don’t have a monopoly on problems and fears. And despite the terrible things that are happening in our world right now, we live in a world that is safer, healthier and fairer than the one many of us were born into.

In my next post, I’ll write about some of the ways we can each take action and do much more than just thrive. My first tip would be to tune out the news and tune in to all the amazing and wonderful things that are happening around us. You won’t have to look far to find amazing and wonderful, but you will have to look further than your television news and Facebook/Twitter feed.

Odd Loves Company,

P.S. If  you believe the good old days were good because black people knew their place, homesexulaity was kept in the closet, and white men made all the country’s decision while women stayed firmly behind them, then that is a whole other conversation. One I probably won’t have.

P.S.S. When I speak to the best of times being now—That does not mean that I don’t notice or care about the tragedies happening around me. I care. A lot.  It does mean, I refuse to let those tragedies define the world I live in.


11 thoughts on “Living in The Best of Times

  1. I try to keep a positive perspective but we are sure going through a rough spot. Including the upcoming election. But I guess you are right we’ve come through tough times before and we will again. It is true that we live in a pretty good world and I try to look for evidence every day.

    • Michael Jordon just donated 2 million dollars to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing.
      The parents of the child who was killed by the gator at Disney decided instead of suing Disney they would put their energy towards healing their family and stating a foundation in their son’s name.
      Evidence is pretty easy to find. It’s just not usually on Page 1 or trending. 😀

  2. I didn’t come into the world until the late 70’s but my parents often talk about simpler times. I think part of the problem is being overwhelmed with bad news everyday from all sides. That is one thing they didn’t have back in the day. Bad news traveled slower.
    I’m fortunate in that I see my city as a friendly place where people care about one another.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    • Your welcome. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I think the media does overwhelm us and it’s hard to stay out of the way of it.

  3. When do we get to have snack again? All this thinking is hard on an old guy and you’ll be sorry to know the heat is killing my golf games.
    Times are hard and then they aren’t. The world has changed a lot and bad news spreads like wildfire. Much of news inaccurate and before you’ve caught your breath you are pushed in a new direction. I feel for all the victims and their families. Black, white, cop, civilian. But I’m not to worried about the state of world affairs the good times will be back again and the change they bring with them might be better than we ever could believe right now. Pass the snack.

  4. Well it sure feels ugly out there. I try to stay optimistic but we seem to be so divided without a common cause. And we can’t even find hope that a new president will help. We have a bad candidate and a very bad candidate to choose between.
    But you’re right we’ve seen hard times before and made it through and maybe we need these times to push the reform that needs to happen. I hope so for everyone’s sake.

    • I think the common cause is change. The election is tough. We do have have to choose between the lesser of two evils. But maybe once the dust settles they will show us strengths we didn’t know they had. And maybe the American people will wake up to the fact that government needs WE THE PEOPLE’S support both positive and negative. Maybe.

  5. Thank you. I always feel like little Miss Clueless when I point out that there is more good in this world than there is bad. Change and reform is happening and we are invited to be a part of it and while that is scary, uncomfrotable, and sad beyond words when lives are lost, it is also exciting to help set the world on a new course which will ultimately improve life for all of us.

    • What is happening right now is exciting and devastating and uncomfortable and infuriating. I don’t think a clueless person would feel those emotions!

  6. Pingback: Good Old Days

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