The Good Old Days
By NANCY PATRICK
I dislike controversy and confrontation, but I face both daily as I grapple with our nation’s current status. Americans seem divided into two major camps based on their religious and political values.
The viewpoint that proposes our need to “make America great again” implies that our country has lost its greatness. Does that mean that the past exhibits more greatness than the present? I have mixed emotions about the question because I believe many of the changes made during my lifetime have benefitted our society.
The philosophy unleashed by this movement aims to make the country great AGAIN by undoing many of the forward steps it has made during its existence. Depending on one’s generation, the good old days refer to different times.
For example, my parents, born in 1928, lived during the Great Depression and then endured WWII. Ironically, their parents had lived during WW I, the Great War, touted as the war to end all wars. My parents had no “good old days.” They faced challenges during the entirety of their lives.
Born in 1950, I belong to the Baby Boomer generation. As I think about the good old days in my life, they include the 1950s of my childhood and 1960s of my adolescence. I think we sometimes glamorize the ’50s as a representation of the perfect family.
Even though my own family fit the definition of the perfect family—permanently married couple with two children—we certainly lacked the perfection portrayed by some. My parents did, however, fulfill the roles of their generation—father as the sole breadwinner and mother as the homemaker.
While Dad worked eight-to-ten-hour days installing lawn sprinklers, Mom did all the domestic chores: cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, washing and ironing laundry, making all my sister’s and my clothes, and paying all the bills. Dad also did our own lawn and anything else that required outdoor work.
To refresh my memory of my childhood, I watched episodes of Leave It to Beaver, Perry Mason, and The Andy Griffith Show. As much as I love these shows and enjoy the nostalgic feelings, they appall me in the regimented social roles of our lives. The women in all these shows fill the roles of feeder, comforter, and submissive companions.
Beaver’s mom, Mrs. Cleaver, represents the quintessential wife and mother. Although Della Street, Perry Mason’s seemingly life-long confidential secretary, never quite manages to get a marriage proposal from her boss, she remains ever loyal and ever ready to come to his aid and defense. And although Sheriff Andy Taylor’s marital status is never clearly defined, his Aunt Bea fills the feminine role of caregiver for him and his little boy Opie.
All these programs, set in the 1950s and 1960s, present a time when women had already won the right to vote (19th amendment, 1919). Women fought long and hard to win that Constitutional right. I can only hope that right stays firmly etched in the list of rights women have gained after long and sacrificial battles against a government seemingly determined for women to remain second-class citizens.
As society evolved, laws in the United States continued to recognize the equality of women and men as human beings and citizens. Until 1963, employers could pay women less for doing the same job as a man. Until 1967, interracial marriage in this country was illegal. The Supreme Court overturned that law, making it possible for couples of mixed races to marry.
One of the major achievements during my life, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, marked a movement I thought would right the wrongs of decades. Although the Act is still law, we continue to see repeated violations of it because laws cannot change human hearts (Black Lives Matter).
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that women in this country could have legal access to abortion, a ruling that gave women the legal right to terminate a pregnancy they deemed they could not carry or did not want to carry to term.
And finally, in 2015 the Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that the fundamental right to marry guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment applies to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples.
I grew more aware of social inequalities and injustices, both gender and racial, during my childhood and adolescence as my world view became larger. I also noted activist movements that worked tirelessly to correct injustices.
Desperation can drive a person to desperate actions. Pro-choice advocates do not advocate for abortion, a distinction the Right to Life advocates overlook. As a pro-choice advocate, I can honestly say that I know no one who advocates for abortion. Most people on my side of this issue hate abortion, but they value personal freedom.
As I have contemplated the strides our country has made in regard to social equality, I have been proud at times though guarded during the past twenty years as I have observed extreme views between conservatives and liberals. As our country has become more and more divided and partisan, I have feared what might become of our democratic society.
After the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling, I felt much more than disappointment. I felt grief, anger, exasperation, and fear. Naively, I had not realized the court had the power to take away long-established rights. I thought of Roe v. Wade as a landmark decision that firmly placed America on the side of human rights. Still naively, I pray for a way to reverse this blow to personal freedom.
As I look at my old television episodes, I enjoy watching them for their entertainment value. However, I note how much easier submissive, smart, and capable women make the lives of men. Are we heading back to the days of Mrs. Cleaver, Della Street, and Aunt Bea? I love their characters but only from my vantage point.
If the Supreme Court can take away women’s rights to govern their own bodies, can it also reverse the marriage rights law, the equal pay law, or even the right to vote? America’s foundation rested on three separate branches of government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. These three establish a system of checks and balances.
Unfortunately, our government has lost its original purpose of separateness as political partisanship seeks to establish each side’s values as the laws of the land. We must again separate the three branches as the constitution intended.
Elected officials, whom voters can replace, comprise the executive and legislative branches. On the other hand, the judicial branch’s appointment system gives it questionable power over matters related to religious and political beliefs. Something needs to change in order to keep the court apolitical and non-partisan.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing