Friday, May 25, 2018

The Right's Dangerous Obsession With the "Good Old Days"

One of the obsessions of the far right is the desire the "good old days" - a mythical time that never truly existed save for the fact that white privilege was still at its zenith.  For the Republican Party part of this obsession is restoring the Gilded Age when the excesses of millionaires knew few limits and in a pre-work regulation world, the lives of many workers were brutal and life expectancies were short.  None of these harsh and ugly realities seemingly lessen the far right's desire to restore this mythical time when the few had things good but the masses did not. Donald Trump's greed, racism, worship of money, and indifference to the many embodies some of the ugliest attributes of this far right longing.  A piece column in the Washington Post uses the recent anti-gay incident at Nichols Hardware in Purcellville, Virginia, as a launching point to review just how cruel the past the far right and white supremacists was for most Americans.  Here are excerpts:
From the handwritten receipts to the tin ceilings and worn wooden floors, Nichols Hardware — opened in this small Virginia town in 1914 and still open today, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — oozes nostalgia.
And that can be a dangerous thing. Because those good old days weren’t so good for many people.
Lynchings were still occurring in the Virginia Piedmont region when the store opened. Women couldn’t vote. Anyone suspected of being gay was regularly fired, arrested, jailed and prosecuted. Ten percent of all babies died in their first year of life, and the average life expectancy was just 54 years. Workplace deaths were common, and there was “virtually no regulation, no insurance, and no company fear of a lawsuit when someone was injured or killed” on the job, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on what those days were like 100 years ago.
It can be easy to forget the brutality and cruelty of those old-timey days when we wrap ourselves in a chalk-painted, custom-distressed longing for mason-jar lemonade and a simpler, kinder time that never really was.

One of the employees of the Loudoun County hardware store gave the nation a disturbing reminder of that over the weekend when an aspiring Eagle Scout looking for donations at the store for a project was served up a bygone-era rant about “homos” and co-ed scouting, then “thrown out” of the store, according to the boy’s father.

The employee was reacting to recent news that the Boy Scouts of America now welcome girls, that the organization has changed its name to Scouts BSA and that three years ago, it lifted a ban on all gay members and leaders.

How easily the man forgot the other times the Boy Scouts of America made news, such as when a court ordered the organization in 2012 to release about 2,000 pages of sex abuse reports from its “perversion files,” created in the 1920s in the Scouts’ halfhearted hunt for child abusers preying on boys. . . . . The most consistent part of the reports was the coverup. Parents, kids, leaders all hush-hushing the abuse and moving the abusers along — quietly, Catholic Church-style — to the next group of victims.
[W]ith the termination [of the bigoted employee], the Nichols family firmly reminded folks of how far we’ve come and how absurd it is to gloss over the ugliest pieces of our past.

Historian Stephanie Coontz wrote a book debunking our mythology about the past. The title: “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap.”

“Knowing there was no golden age of family life, I believed, would enable people to deal more effectively with the problems facing today’s families than if they continued to romanticize the ‘good old days,’ ” she wrote.

Coontz reminded readers that in those romanticized days, half of all mills and factories were filled with child workers, when kids as young as 6 pulled 12-hour shifts. Colonial families were rarely nuclear, as most kids experienced the death of at least one parent. And then there are the white folks who have fond memories of childhoods filled with warm and nurturing black women who had to leave their own children behind to care for them.

There it is, the ability to forget how great America is while longing to make it somehow great again. . . . . What couldn’t happen in those allegedly romantic times?

A black man couldn’t shop at many stores, let alone serve as the town’s mayor — no, three-term mayor — the way Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser, an immigrant from Guyana, has.

868 Estate Vineyards couldn’t tout itself as friendly to LGBT weddings. There would be no LGBT weddings.

There would be no wine. And taking a walk to the Nostalgia boutique would be quite gross, because Main Street was known as Polecat Hollow, an unpaved byway for animal waste.  Not too charming, right?
 The real agenda of the right: to revert to a past time and in the process strip millions of Americans of their civil rights and reinstitute a modernized version of the Jim Crow laws.  All so those clinging to antiquated and perverted theology and racial prejudice can feel superior about themselves. 

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