What do measles, anti-abortion laws, and overt racism all have in common?
Actually, not much except for this: All three were thought to be eradicated decades ago.
But now, as I’m sure you’ve heard, these three social maladies have made a roaring comeback. Really, when it comes to catching contagious diseases, treating women like cattle, and screaming at ethnic minorities in public, well, it might as well be 1965.
For example, “this is the most severe year for measles in 25 years — and it’s looking like we’re even on track to break that record.” This is because many parents are scared of science and have opted not to vaccinate their children, a truly terrifying combination of ignorance, misanthropy and societal suicide that has been endorsed by the great scientist of our time, Mr. Donald Trump.
As for Roe vs. Wade, many progressives figured that after nearly a half-century of stare decisis and settled law — and the progress that women have made toward gender equality in the interim — that there would be no way that conservatives could possibly yank away this constitutional right in a fit of blatant misogyny.
Let me tell you something: The hard right wing of the GOP will tell you when they have finally gone too far, and you will have no say in it — and even then their response will always be, “We have not gone too far.”
That brings us to racism. Oh sure, the more wide-eyed among us thought that bigotry was dead around the time Obama got elected, and that we had entered a post-racial America… Sorry, it’s hard for me to type that phrase without bursting into derisive, cackling laughter.
Regardless, most Americans agreed that racial prejudice still existed. But many of us believed that racism was so beaten down and socially unacceptable that we no longer had to worry about, say, a guy mowing a swastika into his lawn for all his neighbors to see. And the very idea of thousands of neo-fascists marching through the streets chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans… that was just nuts. Never gonna happen — nope.
So why are we here? How are we here?
There is, of course, no all-encompassing answer. But we can look at one undeniable cause for America sliding into retrograde.
And that is because a certain mindset — making America great again — has been embraced by people who are too fearful, too overwhelmed to face the present day. And fetishizing a glorious past that never existed leaves a culture unprepared for the issues of the future. The yearning for a simpler time only leads to simplistic answers.
One of the prevailing attitudes of America’s bygone decades was blatant ignorance masquerading as charming naivety. With the rise of the internet, information is easier than ever to find. But when facts are too upsetting or truths are too difficult to face, many Americans deny their existence and whiplash toward the bad ideas of previous generations. And people start saying kids are better off without vaccinations, or that women shouldn’t get the right to choose, or that segregation isn’t so bad after all. All the decayed norms that were thought dead and buried long ago crawl out of the nation’s grave.
Perhaps this maddening lurching of one step forward, nine steps back will one day be viewed as a necessary stage of America’s evolution. However, even if we eventually look back on this time and sigh with relief that we made it through, I am positive about one thing:
Nobody — and I mean, nobody — is ever going to glamorize 2019.
Featured image: Spencer Means/Flickr