FAIR WARNING: I'm absolutely going to Go St. Peter on anyone who suggests that I'm saying something that I'm not saying here, as entirely too many of my fellow liberals have done with another person whose name I could mention, but won't. He and I may share first names, but we do not have the same surname --- and, since I'm not running for a political office, I don't have to try to be polite and civil. And I won't be --- not if you misquote me half as much as you've misquoted him. So, I suggest that you don't even go there!
I'm old. While some people (not nearly as many now as in the past) claim that I don't look my age, I am my age. I was born in early November, 1941. So you do the math; but, however you figure it, I'm old. I've got to say, though, that when I say that I'm old, I'm not complaining; to me, the alternative to being old is not being young --- which I'll never be again. It's being dead. Thankfully, I'm still vertical and breathing, and I'm being seen and not viewed, so when I say I'm "old," I'm more bragging than I am complaining.
The fact remains, though, that I am old. I grew up in the now-reviled 1940s and '50s --- in the South. I was (and am!) black and gay, and I grew up in the fundamentalist South way back then, so don't tell me that I just don't understand what blacks and gays are going through here and now. I do. And I'm here to tell you that it doesn't even BEGIN to compare with what we blacks and gays went through in the South, back in the middle of the last century.
I will say, though, that not everything back then was as bad as you younger folks seem to think it was. I want to warn you here and now not even to think --- let alone suggest --- that I'm making a case or apology for racial segregation here. I'm not. But, to be honest and realistic, I do have to point out that there was a sense of, let's say, civility back then which seems to be missing now. Everyone seemed to know where his or her place was, so society seemed much more orderly. Sure, the dominant idea may have been that the Man's Place was earning a living, while the Woman's Place was staying at home, running the household and rearing the children; and Blacks ("the coloreds") had their lives to live --- way over there. Back then --- at least, in Oklahoma City --- there were so few Asians and Hispanics that they were seen as sort of "exotic" (and white). By custom almost everywhere, and by law in all too many places, life and society aspired to the description I just gave. That was wrong.
But that was then, and this is now.
Most (certainly not all) of us took The Way Things Were as being The Way Things Should Be. I hesitate to judge the past by today's standards. Besides --- and don't forget my "Fair Warning" above! --- when blacks were prevented by law in too many cases from living, going to school or working in certain places, guess what? Blacks developed vibrant, dynamic communities of their own (think of Boley, Oklahoma, or an even better example --- Val Verde, California). Some would say that the still-segregated 1930s and '40s were probably the Glory Years for blacks in America. I don't know if I agree...
But I digress. This whole post has flown off on a tangent that has little or nothing to do with what I had in mind when I woke up about 3:30AM this morning and started writing this. So, back to the subject:
There are definitely aspects of life back in the 1940s and '50s that I happen to believe were almost infinitely superior --- yes, superior! --- to what younger people are experiencing now. One of those aspects is in the area of popular culture. Sure, I know that life is all about change, but I will never (!) agree that all change is positive or good. And, to me, the most glaring example of this not-good change is in the area of popular culture.
Just think: When was the last time you watched a movie or a TV show --- or even saw a commercial, for God's sake --- which featured classical music in the background? Now, it's all about throbbing rock sounds. Or even sanitized, suburbanized, bleached (ahem!) hip-hop. No 19th Century European music at all; of course, that wouldn't be cool, anyway. All those old white men were racists, weren't they?
And, speaking of "for God's sake," the only top-rated commercial network TV show that I know of which features an actively religious family is "Blue Bloods," which happens to be my favorite show on commercial TV. The Reagans, the family around which that series revolves, is a practicing Catholic family, and they always "say Grace" and cross themselves before the Sunday afternoon, after Mass, family meal which is a feature of every week's episode. I love the Reagans. I love that series. But commercial network TV seems to have a systemic problem with organized religion and the practice thereof.
But, back to the music. Please note that I referred above to "throbbing rock sounds." If I live to be normal, I won't understand how that noise merits the label "music." It's noise. Produced, in large part, by children who were raised and educated by children. What the hell did those kids know about being an adult? And they studied what they wanted to study, whatever they thought was "relevant." And literature and music produced by 19th Century Europeans were boring, and not relevant, so students didn't have to learn about them. To be sure, the adult models that were held up (and respected) back before the "relevancy" days may have been defective, but they were adults, and they acted like grown-ups.
Back in The Day, when I was much younger than I am now, we had real music. My favorite popular singer back then was a Welsh singer that I'm willing to bet 95% of young people now have never heard of: Shirley Bassey. For me, her Best Song was one which has become sort of the anthem of my life --- entitled, appropriately, This Is My Life. Please watch this, and note the words:
A sidenote: Back then, another Welsh singer, a male, was considered a real sex symbol. His name was Tom Jones, and he had a musical variety show on TV (and we won't even get into comparing the quality of "variety" shows back then with the plethora of odious "reality" shows now!). He usually had at least two or three musical guests --- except, that is, when Shirley Bassey was on his show. When she was the guest, she was the only guest, and Dame Shirley was More Than Enough.
One more area of comparison between then and now: Dancing. In my opinion, probably the most graceful, beautiful, sensuous, erotic danceform that's ever been developed was the Argentine tango in its many forms. But, have you seen what passes for a tango on today's "Dancing" shows on TV? The couple struts out onto the stage --- usually separately Doing Their Own Thing --- then proceeds to almost copulate on stage with their clothes on. Well, most of their clothes on, most of the time. And that's what's called a "tango" these days. Sheesh!
I implied above that my putting down the idea of modern dancing was my last area of complaint. So I'm not even going to get into the idea of adults --- grown-assed men and women, for goodness' sake --- idolizing funny book characters. Look at all the TV shows built around characters that used to be in kids' comic books...or the top-rated shows and movies featuring cartoon characters...or the whole Comic-Con phenomenon.
Wow! Sometimes I think the evangelicals and fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists just may be onto something when they endlessly and darkly warn about the demise of civilization or The End of The World, or whatever.
But, no; I just dunno. Something is going on, and I don't like it. With all that was wrong with Life Back Then compared to Life Now, I will say this, with absolutely no hesitation: If I had to choose between The Past, with all its imperfections and injustices and civility, and Today, with all its progress and sensitivity and incivility, I'd take The Past in a hot second!
Now, an explanation, and really, truly my final point: What do I mean by "going St. Peter"? Well, just think: We know that Peter had anger management problems --- remember, he jumped up and chopped a guy's ear off for, in Peter's view, disrespecting Jesus (Jesus Himself didn't take offense; He told Peter to cool it, then stuck the guy's ear back on his head). And, Peter had a potty-mouth. Oh sure, the New Testament discreetly says that he sometimes "spoke with curses," but what that actually means is that he sometimes cussed folks out.
I can be like Peter. I have anger management problems, and if you strike me wrong when I'm not feeling well (which is too-often these days), I'll cuss your ass out in a Hot Second. But I'm a Christian, just as Peter was a Christian, anger management problems and all. And if you try to tell me I'm not, I'll cuss yo' ass out! Probably before I go to church!