This past weekend my father visited to see “A Prairie Home Companion.” He loved it, to say the least. But while watching that night it was not hard to see just who the demographic was. The majority of the people were older folks who probably enjoy the show for its old time variety and tribute to bluegrass music. The show has a way of looking back to a world my generation has never experienced and making it look wonderful. The old timers have a way of doing that.
After leaving the show and walking home, my father and I had a great conversation about what times really were like back then. It seems there is a distorted history of The Golden Age of America and the more we lament the more we forget just how much turmoil and change there really was.
The infamous late 1960’s was known worldwide for its rise in the counter culture and the New Left movements. These did not spring out of nothingness, or just some random point of frustration from the young people. The kind of frustration it takes to reach those points builds over a lifetime. The marches, sit-ins, riots and rallies were all the result of years of organizing.
Before then there was only the hope of a day when the forgotten people of America would stand in solidarity to make a great change. This change started when once and for all free people decided to fight slavery on this continent. Since the Civil War there have been numerous battles between the working people of America and those who want to exploit them as the lowest form of human treatment.
Whether in the coal mines of Appalachia, the grain fields of the north or the orchards of the far west there was never a time in this country’s history when the people did not have to fight for their rights. Even in my grandfather’s era when everything was supposed to be fine, workers and citizens fought for a better future for themselves and their families. But somewhere we forgot about that. We have forgotten Medicaid and civil rights were just made in our parents’ lifetimes. For many still living, these were only dreams. But now we take them for granted.
The irony is so many people wanting to take us back to a time when this world was only a dream. I wonder how far back this country would have to go before the opponents of progress are satisfied, seeing as our entire history has been just that. Even if it does seem at times we take two steps forward and one step back.
Most importantly we need to remember the America Dream is just that. It is not a reality until we decide to make it one. Our country gives us the hope of being able to make a better world. This is the path we must walk in.