When I looked in the mirror to shave, I realized I had become what young people call a “geezer.” I didn’t have any more wrinkles, my eyesight was good and my joints didn’t creak. How, then, did I know I was a geezer? Because I longed for the “good old days.”
“The good old days are a figment of your imagination,” my daughter said. I disagree. Anyone who can remember the Beatles singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on Ed Sullivan, can’t deny the truth: The old days were better.
People were kinder, more virtuous, more compassionate and more faith-filled. We even had penicillin. It wasn’t that long ago, but it was long enough to know a lot has gotten worse, often in the name of progress.
I still remember the smell of coffee percolating and bacon and eggs frying on stove, before prefabricated breakfast sandwiches were invented. There was no fast food, and there was no obesity epidemic. For dinner, we had homemade macaroni and homemade gravy — not mass-produced pasta and a jar of tomato sauce with more sugar than a bag of M&Ms.
Our black-and-white TV had rabbit ears and got four channels. In the evening, our family watched Father Knows Best and The Andy Griffin Show. No one was getting bludgeoned, raped, mutilated or murdered. Now, there are HD flat-screen TVs that get hundreds of channels, pouring a cesspool of so-called artistic expression into America’s homes 24 hours a day.
There was less violence in entertainment … and in our lives. Kids weren’t killing parents and parents weren’t killing kids, and there wasn’t a mass murder every week.
Pornography wasn’t destroying millions of marriages and relationships. If you were addicted to pornography, you had Playboy and a few French magazines hidden behind the counter, not the deluge of filth on the Internet that’s accessible to every man, woman and toddler.
Today, I wait three months to get an appointment with my doctor, but once upon a time, doctors made house calls. You didn’t get as many tests, but you didn’t go broke paying for health care either.
Kids didn’t spend the day in the house, playing video games or bullying one another on social media. We went outdoors to play with our friends and got a good workout. We talked to one another at the dinner table. There was no text-messaging or Twitter, which means we didn’t walk around staring at mobile phones like zombies.
There were no ATMs or easy credit, so we saved more than we spent and put it in a passbook account that earned 4 percent interest.
In school, they taught us how to add and subtract, how to write and spell. (I trust my Webster’s Dictionary more than my computer’s spell check.) At work, employees didn’t spend the day sending emails, as if that were a productive activity. There was no voice mail, so people answered their phones, and you didn’t have to wait 45 minutes for a service representative, only to get disconnected.
Companies had Christmas parties and pension plans, and they honored employees for lifelong service, rather than kick them out the door on Christmas Eve so the owner could put more money in his pocket or the boss could get a larger bonus. There used to be a middle class, and one-percenters were concerned about the other 99 percent.
We trusted the press. We believed what Walter Cronkite said. There was no fake news, and journalists weren’t shills for political causes.
Kids weren’t over-medicated. Adults weren’t addicted to prescription drugs. Smoking dope wasn’t legal. Young people didn’t “hook up” or have apps that let them meet strangers for casual, anonymous sex. We believed love and sex belonged together.
People knew the difference between right and wrong and tried to do the right thing. On Sunday, they went to church, not to the mall or soccer games.
Life had suffering and pain, but you dealt with it, and the people who loved you helped you through difficult times. We had a sense of purpose and weren’t motivated by the relentless pursuit of money, power, sex and pleasure.
Our clothes, cars and appliances were made in America, and that meant something special because we believed in what America stood for. America had genuine heroes like John Glenn, not celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
Most important of all, we believed in God and knew he had a plan for us.
At the beginning of the New Year, let’s look forward, but let’s also look back and realize what we’ve lost … and pray we can regain it.
Contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org.