You’ve seen these e-mails so many times, you probably throw them out without even looking at them. They are what I like to call “nostalgia e-mails.”
Remember when moms always stayed at home?
Remember when “crack” meant you had to pull up your pants?
Remember when a “race issue” meant you could outrun your friends?
Remember when men were men and sheep were nervous?
And on and on they go, reminding millions of readers of a blissful, innocent American past that never really existed.
For the most part, these e-mails are harmless. They are volleyed back and forth to make people feel young again, if only for the amount of time it takes to delete them.
There is a more malevolent subtext to them, though. The implication is that the “good old days” really were better, and that there is something horribly wrong with the way all these young whipper-snappers are living nowadays.
Paris Hilton and MTV notwithstanding, that idea is unfair and inaccurate.
I submit that, for all the problems there are in today’s world, progress has been made in many areas.
I propose an antidote to the nostalgia e-mail—my own “Remember When.”
Remember when TV consisted of three channels which were loaded with crap most of the time? Public TV might as well not have existed, because that stupid loop on the back of your TV couldn’t pick up UHF worth a damn.
Remember vinyl records and how easily they broke or scratched? Remember when those records were available only in mono?
Remember when there was no word processing? If you made a mistake on a paper or wanted to update your resume, you had to type the whole thing over.
Remember when there was no polio vaccine, and you lost sleep worrying that you might wake up one morning to find one of your children crippled for life?
Remember when TB and the flu were among the leading causes of death in the U.S.?
Remember when brilliant young women couldn’t steal a college scholarship, because it was assumed they would just get married and have kids anyway?
Remember when tradition kept many of those women in loveless, abusive marriages for their entire adult lives?
Remember when a boy became a man by being issued a draft card?
Remember when there was no such thing a race issue? If blacks got uppity, they swung from a tree and nobody had an issue with it. Besides, they got public bathrooms and drinking fountains of their very own!
Remember when a 14-year-old boy died in the electric chair?
Remember back-alley abortions, with coat hangers, infection, and death?
Remember when Americans built bomb shelters and cowered in terror of the “Red Menace”?
Remember breadlines, runs on banks, and Hoovervilles?
Remember the millions killed in two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam?
Remember back before there was an Internet, when you had to walk all the way down to the corner bar to hear rants like this?