Friday, 05 February 2010 00:00
I recently encountered a glittering gem that, much to my dismay, came before me without attribution. Conservatives, it said, can’t get over the fact that the 1960s happened and liberals can’t get over the fact that the 1980s happened. Both yearn for the 1950s, it continued, except that whereas conservatives want to live in the ’50s, liberals only want to work there. It’s easy to forget the decade in which one finds oneself, and no wonder. I’ve encountered five distinct types of time travelers:
The 1890ers. These are folks who believe we can take in millions and millions of new immigrants because they think new factories are popping up every day, that there’s nothing but farms around big cities, that the West hasn’t been settled, that there are less than 100 million people living in America, that there’s not enough workers to fill all the jobs. These people are partying like it’s 1899.
The 1950ers. They are the people who resist changes in zoning laws needed to have affordable housing because they are still living in the Eisenhower years when a blue collar worker without a high school diploma could buy a house in Levittown for under $12,000. Their poodle skirts and bobby socks don’t fit anymore and they don’t seem to notice.
The 1980ers. These are Reagan revolutionaries who think banks can be too big to fail, that corporations will create things “made in America” if only they were allowed to grow unfettered and that a massive military-industrial complex will prevent any foreign enemy from harming a single American on American soil.
The 1960ers. They are the crowd who, not having made it to Woodstock back in ‘69, feel that mindless cliches about peace, love, forgiveness, tolerance, diversity, and self-esteem should stand in for intelligent conversation, public policy, and school curriculum. While there’s nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves, the 1960ers haven’t learned that the world is not their Ivy League dorm room.
The 1930ers. These folks believe that honesty, loyalty, hard work, experience, and education are still valued enough by this generation for the down-on-their-luck to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I, too, miss the lavish musicals featuring Irving Berlin’s sound and Fred Astaire’s footwork.
Charles Maurice de Tallyrand once said that no one who has not lived before 1792 knows the sweetness of life. I suspect he was right. Still, all we can do is pick up the pieces and move on.
Paul Manton is the vice president of the Levittown Historical Society. The views expressed in this letter are his alone and not that of the Historical Society.