So, we have Rush Limbaugh calling an educated, intelligent, well-spoken woman a slut and a prostitute and asking that she post sex videos for his enjoyment. At the same time we have a growing movement of ” Take us back to the Good Old Days.” Rush’s rants against women who want to be independent, chart their own courses and stand up for their rights and the people who want to regress to a time when they felt dominant and comfortable in their dominance are both actually positive signs that the world is moving in the right direction. The fact that any listener would believe that Rush is someone to listen to for anything other than either comic relief or an example of the worst kind of American is unfortunate, but it is also a sign that there are numbers of people who are beginning to feel marginalized in a society they no longer feel that they can control. While it is not good for any person to feel marginialized, we need to look at why they are feeling marginalized. They are afraid that “Those People” are taking over! They seek vindication for their backward and oppressive views from people like Limbaugh, uneducated, unread, uncouth. These people will tell you that whatever is wrong with America is caused by “those people.”
The term “those people” might refer to minorities, feminists, immigrants, poor people, women, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, anyone, in other words, who is not a fundamentalist Christian white male, preferably one who likes to hunt, drink beer and watch sports. Like the backward, hateful, ignorant pundits they listen to some people who this type of thing appeals to believe the way we improve things is to regress to a time when they did not have to worry about minorities, religious minorities, ethnic and racial minorities, feminists or women in general. In their view of what were the Good Old Days, some animals were more equal than others and by damn that is the way it was supposed to be! You did not have to concern yourself with “Those People” because they did not have the power to mess with your privilege!
Back in the mid-80s Milt Caniff, the creator of the comic strip Steve Canyon, wrote in a piece in the Dayton Daily News about being nostalgic for what he portrayed as a simpler time. Caniff at the time was in his late 70s or early 80s. So, he was talking about the era of the 1920’s. One of the things he said he missed that rankled me to the point where I wrote a rebuttal editorial was that he missed the time when ” race was just about who could run faster.” What an idiotic thing for anyone to say. Race was never just about running fast for people of color, except for the times we were being chased by racists and Klansmen, when running fast was definitely part of race. Race has always been used to advantage one group over another in America. Milt could yearn for the days when he did not have to think about race as it applied to people because old Milt was a member of a privileged class, both racially and economically. What he was saying was he was tired of hearing complaints about the treatment of black people, and other people of color. Because he did not suffer from racism he did not want to hear about it. Now twenty-five years or so later we still have people swearing that the Good Old Days were more innocent, safer and more friendly. My response to them would be. For whom? And shouldn’t you reject the idea of returning to a time when we had Jim Crow, when women had fewer rights– including reproductive rights, when we had lynchings and cross burnings across much of this country?When women had limited job opportunities and poor people had virtually no chance of escaping poverty, when rural kids and poor kids often did not get to complete their educations? Do you actually want to return to a time of outhouses and doing laundry and taking baths in the same tub?
What kind of selfish oaf would wish the problems and inequities of a previous time on people just because it did not impact him/her? I have never been poor. No one has ever called me a nigger to my face, I have never seen a sign that said “white only” except at the Smithsonian Museum, I have not had an ancestor interned because they were Japanese, I have not been stuck in a place without hope of progress , I have never had a man try to dominate me, I have never been told I cannot go anywhere or do anything I can afford to do, I have never been told I am going to hell because I am Jewish and do not believe Christ is the son of God. That does not mean I want to return to the Good Old Days because I did not suffer during them., or did not suffer as much as many others at least. I do not want anyone to be oppressed, unlike some of my pseudo religious fellow citizens I do not think that attending church and praying is going to solve all the problems of mankind. If that were true then back when most people went to church we would have had a much more equitable society, but we did not.
One example of this backward looking nostalgia is the use of the topic of prayer in schools as a ruse by politicians to get simple-minded people to vote for them. Nobody says you cannot pray in school, nobody ever has. To begin with how would anyone know you were praying? Prayer does not require vocalization. It is organized vocalized prayer that only acknowledges one religion and one way to be spiritual that is forbidden and for good reason. Taxpayers pay for public schools, their children are required by law to attend them, or a pay for an alternate. The taxpayers come in all demographics, Catholics, Jews, Fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Zoroastrians, Rastafarians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Unitarians. Who gets to say the prayer and to whom do they pray aloud in a public school? How do you single out one, or even three religions or sects to honor? How does that not offend people of different faiths who are paying for the schools just like you and who have to send their children to them? There are other options available to people who want organized prayer in school. If you think a specific religion is an important part of education send your kid to a parochial school, they exist, or home school them and teach them.
The people who want prayer in schools do not want to honor religion, they want to impose their religion on others to prove they are more powerful and right. The same thing that would make Rush call a young woman a slut, the need to attempt to control, to dominate , to have power over, is what makes people scream about religion in schools. People who do not want organized prayer in school are not generally atheist or devil worshippers, they simply do not feel the need to make other people acknowledge that their religion is right and everything else is wrong. People who think that birth control should be paid by insurance in order for women to have control over their own reproductive destinies are not seeking to control other people. Nobody is suggesting we make birth control mandatory or available in public schools ( the latter is something I would probably vote for!). It is a matter of whether or not a health care item ( unlike Viagra which is paid for by many insurance companies by the way) should be available at reasonable cost for those who choose to use it. See the difference? You want to make people listen to prayers you select, I want to make things available to people who choose to use them. Big difference. If your child chooses to close his/her eyes and say a prayer in school no one is going to approach the child, rap them on the fingers and demand to know if they are praying. You child does and should have options. If there is a prayer coming out of the announcements or being spoken aloud in the classroom then my child does not have a choice of whether or not to listen.
Calling young women names and making obscene suggestions to them is more congruent with the Good Old Days than modern times. Suggesting we return to the Good Old Days is a bad idea in almost every way. I like electricity, my computer, my car that does not have to be cranked, that we no longer have signs that say white only, that women can work outside the home if they choose to in some capacity besides maid or secretary, and a plethora of other things we did not have in the NOT-SO-GOOD-Old Days. If you want to go backward do not try to drag the rest of us with you. I am sure there is an island somewhere that can be established a a G.O.D. ( Good Old Days or whatever else you might want to interpret it as) colony. I will even help you raise money for your passage!