The 1950s Without the Happy Days

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From the 1950s to the early 1970s, there were some great things about the United States – strong unions, excellent K-12 public education, outstanding and affordable higher education, strong social security, post-Depression financial laws that kept the economy rather stable, increased efforts to assist persons in poverty, a movement towards greater civil rights and more women’s rights, a movement towards establishing more affordable healthcare for more people, laws established to protect clean air and clean water and to protect the environment and endangered species, and an outstanding infrastructure made possible by much higher taxation on the wealthy in our society.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, there were also some very problematic things about the United States – the military industrial complex was gaining more power, racism was rampant, Jim Crow was the law of the South until the mid 60s, women were seen as subordinate to men and had little economic and political power, persons who did not identify themselves as Christian were discriminated against, the rights of indigenous persons were a low priority, and persons who were LGBTQ were oppressed and deemed mentally ill.

The MAGA folks (under the influence of the American oligarchy) look back on the 1950s as a time in which America was great. The problem is that they don’t see that what was putting us on the path to being great from the 1950s through the 1970s are all the things that the Republican Party from 1980 to the present has been systematically dismantling – unions, public education, social security, voting rights protections, women’s rights, assistance for those in poverty, affordable and accessible healthcare, laws protecting the environment, responsible laws governing financial institutions, and a tax system that funded the best infrastructure on earth.

If we take away these things, we are not making America great again, we are simply making America more oppressive to workers, less educated, more racist, more sexist, less safe, more unhealthy, more desperate for the most vulnerable, more poor, more theocratic, less free for persons who orient themselves to religion differently, more militaristic, and less just for persons who are LGBTQ. When you combine all of this with a crumbling infrastructure, what you get is a 1950s minus all of the things that made those years bearable and provided hope for the future. This might be great for the oligarchs, theocrats, and racists; but for the rest of us, it is not so great.

The current agenda of the Republican Party is antithetical to the greatness that has at times, though never fully, manifested itself in the highest aspirations of our republic; rather it represents a capitulation to the evils that we as a nation have been attempting to overcome to create a more perfect union – racism, sexism, poverty, greed, militarism, religious discrimination, and environmental destruction. If our republic is to have a flourishing future, we must listen “to the better angels of our nature” as the founder of a very different Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, once said, rather than regressing towards our original sins as a nation.

About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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