As I write this article, another July is heading towards its end. July is a truly amazing month. It hosts the Fourth of July (for Americans) and Bastille Day (for French folks). July also marks the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (for Native American Catholics), Wimbledon (for tennis fans), and The Open Championship (for gulf nuts). It also happens to be the month that yours truly blessed the world with his presence! I have celebrated enough of these days that I now routinely ponder the “good old days.” So exactly what are the good old days? The answer to that question shifts, obviously, with each generation.
For me, the good old days are the 1980s and 1990s. I was a kid without many concerns. No wife, no children, no bills, no real responsibilities, no understanding of the world. Essentially, I had no cares. Life was great. I woke up, I went swimming, I went fishing, I played baseball, I went to bed, and repeat. Unfortunately, not everybody’s childhood is that idyllic, but mine was.
The good old days were hopeful. The Cold War came to an end. America united with former enemies to defeat Iraq in the First Gulf War. The economy righted itself and began a decade of expansion. Terrorism and mass shootings had yet to appear in large scales here in America. As a discerning historian, I know that this description is romanticized and rose-colored, but for me, it was a time of hope.
The good old days were healthy. Any pain or injuries were self-inflicted from obvious causes. Apparently riding a bike off of the neighbor’s deck and bombing the hill on a skateboard can lead to serious pain, but at least I knew why I was in pain. Nowadays, I often wake up with all sorts of nagging pains that have no obvious cause. I now see the doctor for multiple maladies that were not even a part of my vocabulary in the good old days.
Finally, the good old days were social media and smart phone free. My life, and that of my friends, did not hinge on how many people liked my latest photo upload. My life hinged on engaging in activities with my friends and family. When it came to politics, we didn’t have the luxury of inundating ourselves with tweets from just our guy. As a result, we did not hate the other side. In politics, I knew that people disagreed with each other, but I also knew that sometimes they put those disagreements aside and worked together for the betterment of the country. I know politics was not perfect in the good old days, but it sure did function better.
For those of us old enough to have good old days, they will always be a time of perfection. Twenty Julys from now, I am sure I will be remembering the good old days when my children could not drive a car and saw me as their unquestioned hero. I will remember when gas was only $2.50. I will remember when I only had a pesky back and knee that acted up on occasion. Such is the nature of the human mind that we look back to what was better than now but often fail to work in the other direction. If only we humans to could manage to see more positives in the present and see more realities in the past, but then we would never be able to annoy our kids with stories about how better life was in the good old days.
Guest columnist Jared Barse is a social studies teacher at Onamia High School.