Which Country?

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump quotes an American woman, “I want my country back!”  Her yearning echoes many middle-age and older citizens and reaches back decades.

On the heels of the Great Depression and WWII, Americans had a bellyful of pain and poverty.  It was time for peace and plenty.  Nineteen forty-five promised a bungalow for every family, a Ford or Chevy in every garage, a good job for Dad, an electric stove and refrigerator for Mom, and “Boomer” kids in lily-white school.  The miracle of television brought “Father Knows Best,” “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet,” “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.”, and “Leave it to Beaver” into American homes.

Then, the picture went out-of-focus.  It turned out Father didn’t always know best, Ozzy and Harriet weren’t the “Nelsons,” and Gomer was gay.  After six-seasons, “The Beaver,” Gerald “Jerry” Patrick Mathers, graduated high school and abandoned the airwaves for the Air Force.  “The Graduate” introduced younger Americans to “plastic” and hypocrisy. Then the Beatniks—Remember?—Hippies, Viet Nam, and Civil Rights!

As our lady pining for her lost “country” suggests, many Americans trace today’s craziness, mass shootings, burgeoning murder rates, violence in video games and social and mass media, to breakdown of  “traditional,” male and female, two-parent America’s family.  But, like it or not, we can’t roll back the calendar.  “Ay, there’s the rub.”

Nostalgia notwithstanding, the cliché is true: The only constant is change.  A technocratic, solar-powered, speed-of-light Twenty-First Century leaves most Americans over age fifty bewildered and sometimes frightened.  A mechanized, gasoline-powered, speed-of-sound Twentieth Century left our parents bewildered and sometimes frightened.  So it’s been, generation after generation, century after century.   

Does our wistful lady long for laundry on a scrubbing board, travel by wagon or horseback, scurrying to a two-hole outhouse?  Does anyone pine for a clutch and gear shift, hand-push lawn mower, rotary phone, party line, “long distance,” “rabbit ears” on a two-channel, sometimes fuzzy, black-and-white TV?

In our grandparents’ era, the leading causes of death were disease, accidents, and childbirth.  Twenty-first century living conditions, public safety, and medicine have gifted Americans with far less suffering and far more material goods than in any time or culture of world history!

Despite today’s headaches and heartaches, do we really yearn for return to “Mayberry R.F.D.”?  Do we really want our country back?

Which country?

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