On the pros and cons of nostalgia
by Franklin Clark, Reporter -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
Feb 26, 2014 | 244 244 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”

- Marcel Pagnol

I had the privilege of covering the “Must See Retro TV” fundraiser on Saturday night. I say it’s a privilege because the proceeds go to Trigg County Hospital’s digital mammography suite. I can think of few better local causes.

The food was good. And the show itself - which paid homage to several TV shows, most of which predate me - was actually funny. I think my favorite part was when Paul Fourhsee played Johnny Carson’s Great Carnac character. What was impressive was that he made the turban himself.

All in all, it was a funny, harmless bit of nostalgia of some admittedly classic TV shows, and for a terrific cause; a great way to spend an evening.

But not all nostalgia is created equal. An acquaintance of mine in the region recently talked about political mudslinging, and how it seems to some people at least to be so much worse than it’s ever been, and how incorrect that assertion is.

He brought up the Presidential Election of 1800, which was between two of our Founding Fathers - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson called Adams “a blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who is a hideous hermaphroditic character with neither the force and fitness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In turn, Adams called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

This doesn’t even begin to justify modern mudslining or downplay its modern efficiency, only to put it into context, to say, basically, that this is human nature, and human nature hasn’t changed much throughout history. It certainly puts Ted Nugent calling President Barack Obama a “sub-human mongrel” into context, as absolutely appalling as that statement is.

On the other hand, modern mudslinging is aided by money, some of it invisible, and lots of it, and partly thanks to social media, it can certainly travel farther and more quickly these days.

Nevertheless, such attacks seem central to our nature. It’s in our nature to divide ourselves. To give you an example of how ridiculous our divisions can be, we used to think left-handed people were satanic!

Also seemingly constant to our nature are “Kids these days!” kind of statements, statements that date back to the written word, at least.

One seemingly newer piece of nostalgia, seemingly, is how much safer the old days used to be. Now, violent crime ebbs and flows, and is higher or lower depending on the city or region, but overall crime statistics compiled by the FBI seem to indicate that it’s a lot safer in many parts of the country than in some previous ages. New York City’s per capita violent crime rate, for example, is much lower than in the 1970s or 1980s.

There will be anecdotes to the contrary, but anecdotes are only the beginning of research, not the end, and few anecdotes do not a trend make. Actually, that’s pretty good general advice.

To put it another way: to quote Sheriff Bell’s father in the movie No Country For Old Men, “What you got ain’t new.”

Franklin Clark is a reporter for the Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at fclark@cadizrecord.com.
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