Really? Were they the good old days? I don’t think so. Yes, for many life was simpler. But how many of those kids without helmets fell or got hit by a car? How many of them would have escaped serious injury if they had worn a helmet. How many kids playing in the street were hit by cars? I know I had a few close calls. How many lives have been saved by seat belts? And what was so great about having only 3 or 4 TV stations or watching only in black and white?
I hear the same nostalgia when I hear baby boomers reminisce about the 60’s and 70’s. “Oh, wasn’t it great? We were so free. We were so experimental.” Sure, we were experimental. And if you’ve read my blogs you know I’m a huge advocate of baby boomers. But let’s be real here. The 60’s were awful. We had turmoil in the streets, we had world leaders assassinated, we had violent protests, and lots of other things that were far from wonderful. Too many of us OD’d on drugs (but since those people are not around to reminisce, we don’t hear their side of it). Many of us went to war 12,000 miles away. Most returned, many didn’t. Those that returned were treated with disdain. Many of us were lonely, desperate, out of touch, or depressed. We clung to each other because we didn’t know what else to do. We survived and moved on. And now we glorify those past years.
To me, there wasn’t that much glory living through those turbulent times. In fact, when I think back and compare today with back then, with what some call the good old days, I’m so happy those times are over and we’re here now. I’m not saying that there weren’t also some great times. There were many for me personally. I’m also not saying that the baby boomers didn’t shake up the world and make it a better place. We did. But let’s not forget about all those bad times we had or about the ones who didn’t make it through whole.
When I hear or read these nostalgic emails, I’m reminded of a very long bike ride I took about 15 years ago. It was a fundraiser for AIDS research and treatment. For 4 days I cycled through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia before riding onto Constitution Avenue in Washington DC. Just about every minute of the ride I hated. There was nothing good about how my butt felt or the fatigue gnawing at my legs. But when I rode onto the mall having accomplished the tremendous feat, I was exhilarated. I totally forgot about the 4 days of hell. All I knew was that I had done it and it was one of the best feelings I had ever had.
I didn’t like that bike ride. I loathed the ride. I loved the accomplishment. And as for the 60’s and 70’s, I didn’t much like them either. But boy, did we ever accomplish something. And for that I too can celebrate. I just don’t want to say those times were better than now. We’ve progressed so far. We have so much farther to go, and in particular, to make the progress we’ve made available to everyone, not just the haves.
So my message is, “Sure, let’s look back and remember. Let’s laugh at the primitive technology we had then. Let’s remember the innocence and feeling of safety most of us had. But let’s not forget the fear we felt when we had to “duck and cover” under our desks during air raids. Let’s not forget the black and white pictures of the Vietnam War being broadcast into our living rooms. Or seeing your friend freak out on a bummer trip. And let’s put it in perspective, happy to have survived some awful times, but also sad that some didn’t.