Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Good Old Days

Gas prices, climate change, the housing market, and Iraq. I assume that few Americans would rate 2008 as one of the better years to be alive. But before pining for the good old days, one needs to ascertain when the good old days were, exactly. Obviously, most people measure such a question by the vicissitudes of personal fortune. September 2001 was not a great time for our country, but if someone got married or gave birth around that time, they can't help but regard that period with positive associations (assuming they haven't got divorced since then, I suppose). But although certain individuals can flourish in the worst of times or whither in the best, and although I think there is truth in Dickens's famous paradox about The French Revolution, I think it is part of a historian's job to determine what were the "good old days". And if such a historian would insist that such a question is too broad in scope, that the idea of "good old days" is illusory, I would still insist that allowing for relativity, such an answer is possible. Not all years are created equal, and though there never was a perfect year to be alive, some have been preferable to others, and I have to think that one was preferable to all others. So with apologies to VH1, what was the best year ever?

Unfortunately, I have yet to run across a historical essay that answers this question. I am not a historian, and I am not qualified to write such an essay, but since this is a blog, who cares about qualifications? However, in the interest of fairness, I will limit myself to years I have been alive.

First, I will eliminate the late 1970s because A) I don't remember them and B) They couldn't have been too great if the incumbent president carried six states

Second, I will eliminate the entire 1980s. "The Decade of Greed," The Cold War, mullets. I dare anyone to read the Wikipedia page on the 1980s and not get depressed.

On to the 90s:

1990-eliminated. Still reeling from the 80s. MC Hammer and New Kids on the Block.
1991-eliminated. Gulf War.
1992-eliminated. Almost 20 million people voted for Ross Perot for president (and unbelievably, he was leading the polls in June). The year couldn't have been that great.
1993- eliminated. Somalia. Clinton's first year in general.
1994- eliminated. The World Series was cancelled for crying out loud! Also, O.J.
1995- eliminated. Domestic Terrorism, including Oklahoma City and the Unabomber.
1996- Hmmm. Can't find too much wrong with 1996. We'll have to save that one.
1997- eliminated. The Spice Girls prefigure the collapse of popular music, signifying a stultification of culture in general.
1998- eliminated. The then-WWF dominates cable ratings with the "attitude era," signifying a stultification of culture in general.
1999-eliminated. Woodstock '99, signifying a stultification of culture in general.

And this decade:
2000- eliminated. The presidential election.
2001 to present- eliminated. The War on Terror.

So by literal process of elimination, the good old days were 1996. But a Packer fan could have told you that to begin with. As the Pack goes, so goes the nation. And how's this for a scary thought: given Brett Favre's retirement, we might just come to regard the past few years as the good old days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"September 2001 was not a great time for our country, but if someone got married or gave birth around that time, they can't help but regard that period with positive associations..."
What if they got engaged two months before that? Hypothetically speaking.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

i agree with you and think everyone has their won opinion on wether or not a time was a good time or bad time

11:54 PM  
Blogger Nicki W. said...

I'm not sure there ever really was a "good, old days". I think when someone pines for the good, old days, they just want what they know has already happened. Not knowing the future makes the current time a variable. You don't necessarily know if this time period will be considered the good, old days or not. It's a matter of perspective. Unless I know when I'm going to die, do I really know when my good, old days are? And, it's not the same for everyone. 1996 was most definitely not a good year for me, but for others it probably was. I think it is the fear of the unknown that makes that comment come out of mouths. Time and our memory also have a way of glossing over the bad episodes of our lives and making it seem like the past was better than our future will be. Of, course, if you are in your upper 80's and facing mortality on a daily basis, it would make sense that your younger self was in "the good, old days".

7:48 AM  
Blogger Tee said...

I believe the "Good ole days" are what YOU made of them... maybe they were good or maybe they were bad. There are only so many things we have a say in, and can really be heard. So, you have to live life to it's fullest dispite the burdens we see our Government putting us through.
I have had some really horrible times, but I have also had some amazingly wonderful times and it is those times that I choose to think about when I think of the "Good ole days".

10:55 PM  
OpenID aztwin15 said...

I am wondering what you are trying to imply by categorizing the New Kids on the Block with MC Hammer

2:57 PM  

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