Time Machine? No Thanks.

If I had a time machine, would I use it to travel back in time? Heck no! As difficult as it is to make it in present-day New York (or maybe even present-day America, I don’t know.) the “olden days” had their own problems.

The past was a grim time to be a woman. You pretty much had to marry. If you were in a disappointing marriage, tough luck. Divorce was considered shameful, even where there was abuse. The children were marginalized, too, as “coming from a broken home.” Ha, like they broke it! And besides, it was harder for a woman to support herself. It was not against the law to pay women less than men, or even to deny them jobs because of their gender. And forget about promotions.

There was a time not too long ago when it was perfectly legal to beat the children in your care, but illegal to do the same to adults. You can still be arrested for assault; what’s better now is that this protection extends to our youngest, most vulnerable citizens.

Discrimination was the norm, at work, in housing and by extension, in education.  Levittown, Long Island is lauded as America’s First Suburb. Cute, but let’s not forget that it was designed as an all-white community. It took a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1948 to change that. Today, it’s a comfortable, apparently mixed community with lots of shopping. I drive there sometimes because it’s not as congested as where I live. It’s out-of-the-way but less stressful. (Who’d have thunk it?)

Modern times bring modern medicine. Not only is life expectancy up, but so is quality of life. We can cure diseases that killed earlier generations. We can prolong life and ease pain. Premature birth is often just an anecdote and not a predictor of struggle. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, of course. This stuff costs money that many people don’t have, and access to quality healthcare here is still pretty uneven.

Which brings me back to now: The generations before us worked hard to create better lives and I’m forever grateful to them for that. We have a way to go because there will always be stupid people blocking the path, but look how far we have come!

Off the top of my head, here are some good things about the mid Twentieth Century:At the Queens Museum o Art, on the site of both World's Fairs

  • A sense of wonder. Flying Cars! A box that heats up your food quickly! Electric typewriters! Dick Tracy’s wristwatch-phone! (Could they have imagined smart phones?)
  • Those pretty dresses. And hats! The downside being stockings.
  • Meat and potato meals were standard. Unfortunately, so were canned veggies.
  • We made things. Manufacturing meant jobs and the earnings were spent in the communities. Upward mobility was possible if you worked really hard.
  • Mid-century furniture. Which wasn’t called mid-century then, I guess because nobody knew just how cool it was.

I’m still not convinced that they were good old days, though. You can buy the artifacts and cook up a pot roast with potatoes. History is for learning from. I’ll live in today.




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