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I Miss My America

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I caught myself waxing nostalgic for the land of my youth the other day. I wished I could go back in time. Back to a place where terror was something I paid money to feel at the theater, not the ever present horror of today.

I wanted to return to the simpler times of my childhood. The joy of running barefoot though the fields, swimming in the creek, and knowing my Mother and Dad would protect me from any evil. I miss those days, and I wish my grandchildren could have what I had.

It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you.

I’d allowed myself to forget how divided my beloved nation was even then. How Vietnam tore us apart, how the hippies and the old men hated each other. I’d forgotten the horror of watching fellow Americans attacked by police with dogs because they were black and had the audacity to desire equal treatment under law. I’d let myself forget how sad my Mom and Dad were because I would not have what they had.

I came to the sad realization that my America doesn’t exist except in my mind. The nation I sang of as a boy, "sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing," has always been in a state of conflict and upheaval. Many could not hope to claim their share of the American Dream. Not because they weren’t willing to work at it, but because they were the wrong color or the wrong ethnicity.

We were lucky here, in our little community. People helped each other without caring what color the family in need was or what political party they favored. My hometown boasted two hundred souls, and we knew all about each other. It was hard not to in a small town.

My father was a man who judged people by their actions, not their race or financial situation. Pop taught us to respect the opinions of everyone, but to decide for ourselves what we thought was right and stand by it. We were fortunate to have such a man stand as our example. I wish I could return to those days, just to ask my Dad what I should do? How do I keep my children from falling into the trap of hating someone’s politics so badly they end up hating the person?

I always thought the ties that bound us together as Americans were stronger than the issues that divided us. I don’t know if I believe that anymore, and it saddens me more than I can say. It hurts to think of my beloved country dying a slow death from within. Our people too divided to care…too caught up in hating everyone else…too busy despising the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for when they’re exercised by someone they disagree with.

I miss my America, even if it was only in my mind.

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  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Absolutely beautiful expression of what every American should feel, liberal, conservative, whatever…even Lithuanian. We have lost something so precious, and you capture the essence in a very simple yet very powerful piece.

    I raise my glass of Jameson in your honor.

  • Donnie Marler

    Thank you, Mark. I’ll join you, and drink to my America.

  • Bliffle

    You were lucky to have such a Dad. So was I. He said “treat everyone the same, with politeness and reserve. Don’t bend your knee to the prince nor spit upon the pauper. Soon enough they will show you what they are worth.”

    Too bad. The exigencies of greed and corruption and the shallowness induced in the public by cheap politicians and vacuous entertainers have reduced us to ignorant babbling fools hungering after cheap trinkets and lives of unearned indolence.

    I say, kiss them off and depart for better climes. That’s what I’m doing.

  • Arch Conservative

    I didn’t grow up in the sixties I grew up in the eighties but even I miss my America. Of course there has always been disagreement among citizens but never have we been so far from what America was intended to be and it’s traditional culture and values.

    Somewhere in the 1990’s a bunch of people calling themselves “progressives’ showed up with political correctness, racial demogougry and the ACLU and evrything turned to shit.

    Well fuck them. I can only hope that sooner or later normal Americans are going to get fed up with thier bullshit and do something about it.

  • Donnie Marler

    I agree the differences are more strident than ever before. Both sides attempting to simply drown out the others points, rather than engage in a meaningful conversation.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com brad schader

    My America was about 10 years later than yours, but was just as magic and I miss it as well. Great piece. I remember riding my bike miles from my house with my mother’s only fear being I might be late for dinner. Those days are gone.

  • Donnie Marler

    Thanks, Brad. I remember wearing out a few bikes in my day as well, and hearing my mother call my name at dinner. Lord knows, that woman had a voice you could hear from a distance. Yes, those days are gone.

  • http://mrbounce.blogspot.com/ Mistress La Spliffe

    Maybe what we all miss, across this spread of ages, is childhood – a time when we felt safe because we were well taken care of by really responsible and good parents, in responsible and good communities.

    Now, as adults, not only do we not have that assumption of safety, but we also need to be critically sharp all day, every day to see through the bullshit that’s throw at us to create artificial oppositions between different political groups and ideologies. A media and a political class telling us that things have never been worse, and that people have never been worse, or so very different from each other.

    But never any suggestion about how to fix that, if it’s true . . . just horror stories about a bloodthirsty, undemocratic right and a fascist, ineffectual left that turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I don’t miss my childhood for reasons that many of you understand. That being said, I do miss:

    • America on Nov 22, 1963 when the nation stood still and mourned.
    • Bobby Kennedy and his words of patriotic comfort during the MLK assassination episode.
    • The comfort of having Ronald Reagan in the White House.
    • The soda fountain at my local neighborhood drugstore where you could pop a balloon and pay the price inside it for a banana split.
    • Woolworths – the best five and dime in American history.
    • Having supper at the table with the rest of the family and no television sets turned on anywhere.
    • 8 cylinder engines and 1966 Chevy BelAirs.
    • Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Chet Huntley and Peter Jennings.
    • Television stations signing off at midnight so we’d all get some damn sleep.
    • Donna Summer. The Village People. Disco.

    Sigh.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com brad schader

    I do not miss Reagan or Disco, Salis, but I miss the rest of your list

  • Thane Tierney

    Mr. Marler,

    Sounds like we’re about the same age, and though I grew up in a big city, I experienced many instances of the same “each one help another” sentiments you mentioned. As for the polarity that seems to divide America, I’m reminded of a scene from the HBO movie Live from Baghdad, in which Michael Keaton (playing CNN producer Robert Wiesner) says to the guy playing Iraqi information minister Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, “People start dying when we stop talking.”

    It sort of doesn’t matter who started the division of America into two warring camps (I think that Newt Gingrich and Ann Coulter are as much to blame as the ACLU and Al Franken); it’s just about time that those of us who love America rise up and say, “Enough.”

    When Woody Guthrie wrote his wonderful song about America, he didn’t say “This land was made for me and mine,” he said “This land was made for you and me.”

    How refreshing it would be if we stopped shouting our slogans and actually listened to what others had to say. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to disagree without demonizing our neighbor? Or even better, to come to a mutually-agreeable conclusion? When all is said and done, don’t most of us want the same things: to be safe and secure; to be able to perform meaningful work and be paid an aadequate wage; to practice our faith –or not– without being badgered by those whose faith is different; in short, to engage in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

    At least, that’s the way I recall our Declaration of Independence going…

  • zingzing

    disco was great! you kidding? of course, if all you know is the village people, that’s like only knowing kenny g and saying jazz sucks. just ig’nant. that’s my contribution.

  • Mark Saleski

    When Woody Guthrie wrote his wonderful song about America, he didn’t say “This land was made for me and mine,” he said “This land was made for you and me.”

    yes, though you do know that Woody wrote that as a sort of anti-“God Bless America”?

    i’m not saying that i disagree with the rest of your sentiments (ok, the aclu thing i don’t agree with), but there are comments in this very thread (#4) that are perfect examples of the problem of divisiveness.

  • http://www.sitekreator.com/crucible/index.html Howard Dratch

    I, too, miss the America of my memories, of my childhood and even the parades when we saluted every honor guard.

    We have different memories and pine for different lives and different politics but we mostly think back to a time we could agree to disagree and that was the America that was. Except for Arch Conservative, we all stopped for a moment to remember an America “… made for me and you.”

    We can all hope the country comes to its’senses someday before freedom withers from disuse.

  • STM

    Donnie: If you miss the America of your childhood, you can always move to Australia.

  • Donnie Marler

    Great comments, guys. Thanks for sharing.
    STM: I’d love to visit Australia someday.

  • Zedd

    Arch Conservative:

    You missed the entire point. Perhaps because you never knew that America.

  • Zedd

    Marler:

    Thank you for your sentiments.

    Thank your for not over romanticising the past and not disrespecting minorities by painting the time of their HELL as a better time.

    Thank you for putting things in perspective

    What I miss is the HOPE for an even better America. The belief that because we have progressed incrementally since our conception, we will continue to do so; We will be even better, smarter, more fair and accepting tomorrow. I miss that America.

  • Donnie Marler

    Zedd, I have four (soon to be five) grandchildren, they are my hope for the better America we both want so badly.

  • Arch Conservative

    I think anyone who lived through the 80’s and doesn’t miss Ronald Reagan being president is a douchebag!

  • Douchbag

    Ronald Reagan was the worst president we ever had.

    Except maybe George Bush.

  • JustOneMan

    Douchbag
    Welcome to Blogcritics….did you know that there are numerous other Douchbags in here who feel the same way you do!

    Glad to have you aboard, Douchbag!

  • Douchbag

    Yes, I know that. Thank you very much.

    In fact, me and the other douchbags were discussing this very fact the other day while having a nice chuckle at the amazing stupidity of some of the conservative commentary here at Blogcritics.

    Thanks for the free entertainment. See we don’t have much money because we tithe to the ACLU. The rest of our money goes to welfare mothers and the occasional illegal alien. So when we’re not killing and eating our unborn young, we right here, having the time of our lives.

  • Arch Conservative

    Guess you never heard of a guy named Jimmy Carter huh Douchebag?

    What was that fond way they had of referring to him in the 1970,s?

    Oh yeah “everything he touches turns to shit!”

    The Gipper was the greatest president of the 20th century.

    Call me crazy but somehow I doubt the values of our founding fathers and those that followed them who built this nation included abortion on demand, coddling of illegal aliens, ridiculing christianity, absolute political correctness, conveniently abused social welfare prograams,
    racial demogogry for political purposes, subjugating soveriegnty in favor of foreign approval……….you know……….pretty much everything the left stands for.

    It must warm the cockles of your heart everytime you see a bunch of illegal mexican aliens raise the Mexican flag on American soil huh Brad?

  • Douchbag

    The gipper had the smarts of a bunch of brocolli.

    I’m not surprised you loved him.

    Nice list of talking points by the way. I bet they get you hot.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    id you know that there are numerous other Douchbags in here who feel the same way you do!

    Perhaps, but I bet all of them can spell ‘douchebag’ correctly.

    As for that dreamy old America, I grew up there too. I also remember riding my bike down to the soda fountain at the Olympia Cafe and spending my allowance on a 6 ounce coke. Of course, back then it seemed like there were no politics or political parties and everyone was white and hippies didn’t exist and ethnic minorities were only encountered as servants.

    It was probably a better world for kids, but wasn’t it kind of artificial and unatural?

    Dave

  • Donnie Marler

    Without entering the fray on everything else, I think a tremendous argument could be made for FDR as the greatest President of the 20th century.
    I credit Reagan for being able to take his message to the masses in an effective manner, hence the “great communicator” moniker.
    To my way of thinking, Jimmy Carter was doomed to fail as president for one simple reason, he was too moral. Sounds insane, doesn’t it?

  • Mark Saleski

    dave, was the 6 oz coke the kind that was served in the inverted paper cone up that was pushed into the metal holder? dang, i do miss lunch counters.

  • Donnie Marler

    To be fair, Dave. I don’t think I sugar-coated the the treatment of minorities, etc. in the article.

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Donnie..not having lived in the 1940’s it is hard for me to compare and contrast Regan and FDR.

    Everything I know of FDR is from what historians have written. I think Ronald Reagan will be looked upon quite favorably as one of the best presidents ever after sufficient time has passed. Clinton on the other had will be viewed as an average president who had the benifit of a good economy driven by the provate sector .com boom during his term.

    Carter will probably be remembered as one of the worst of all times. He may have been a good man but he was a lousy fucking president.

    W will probably also not be remembered that fondly unless Iraq gets better soon.

    I am quite sure that Mitt Romney will restore the world’s faith in America and the GOP’s faith in thier party’s commitment to real conservative values in 2008 as Reagan did in 1980.

    It’s funny watching Mr. Douchebag trying to get me riled up by demeaning Reagan. I might take the bait too if it weren’t coming from someone idolizing a lecherous, lying rapist named slick willie.

  • Douchbag

    Since when did I say that I odolized President Clinton. Clearly not.

    Though given the choice between a Rhodes Scholar and a hack, it’s not too difficult to decide.

    Interesting that you idolize the leader of one of most corrupt administrations in history. I bet you’ve got a framed picture of Oliver North too.

    Pass the K-Y.

  • Donnie Marler

    Arch,
    Reagan will be remembered for standing in Berlin and saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” I certainly remember the chill I felt watching the German citizens literally tearing the Berlin Wall apart with sledgehammers and picks. An incredible moment in history.
    Carter will, I hope, be remembered as a man that did the best he could. I believe he was the right man at the wrong time for the job. In ‘normal’ circumstances, he might have been an amazing president.
    FDR was the father figure to an entire nation during our most trying time. He’s a legend, with good reason. Were he president day, it would be a different story. He had some interesting relationships on the side.
    Clinton will go down in history as the man who reduced a deficit they said couldn’t be done away with in a lifetime in less than four years. Like him or not, his economic programs worked. He was, and is, no fool, except when it came to women. He’s not alone in that failing, he was just more public in it.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Interesting that you idolize the leader of one of most corrupt administrations in history.

    When did I claim to idolize Clinton?

    Not Oliver NOrth…..the gipper himself…… that way when I have someone in my home for the first time I can tell if they’re a left wing moonbat by the scowl on their face when they walk through the door….. if they scowl I immediately activate the trap door sending them to a painful death submerged in a pool of hot, bubbling, crude oil in my basement….then i later go down into the basement and mastrubate into the pool of crude oil and dead moonbat bodies while watching speeches of ronald regan on my 70″ plasma tv that i purchsed with money i recieved from dividends on my haliburton and enron stock

    Life is good!

  • Arch Conservative

    Like him or not, his economic programs worked

    What economic programs?

    He had a GOP congress for most of his presidency and the only reason he passed welfare reform was because he knew it would have been passed anyway.

  • Douchbag

    Wow Arch Conservative, you are hooked on those talking points. Keep repeating. It’s exciting.

    On second thought, I have become convinced that you are actually a liberal posting the most inane material possible to make conservatives look stupid.

  • Donnie Marler

    Arch, I’m a conservative myself, but for the record, Clinton did quite a bit of good for the economy.

    He presided over the longest economic expansion in the nation’s 224-year history—not the longest peacetime expansion or the longest postwar expansion, but the longest expansion ever.

    I won’t debate who really deserves the credit, him or Congress, but that’s how things were when he was in the Oval Office.

  • Donnie Marler

    224 year history referring to the age of our country when Clinton left office. Just in case you factual minded folk were picking up stones to throw at me!! lol

  • Arch Conservative

    Donnie …
    I contend that it was the private sector .com/internet boom that created all that economic prosperity in the 90’s, a lot of which was artificial as when the bubble burst on Clinton’s watch late in his 2nd term the economy started heading south.

    To his credit Clinton knew enough to stay out the way of the .com boom and let it do it’s thing.

  • cmeza

    Opinions about Presidents aside, what most people really miss is the long post-WW II boom of prosperity when this nation had a virtual monopoly on the means of production. Our factories set the standard for the world and the average white male with a high school education could support a family of five or six. Now an ever-rising number of children are born out of wedlock, nobody cares, and violence and dysfunction are pervasive. We’ve been bleeding out in useless wars, our friends don’t like us, and our enemies don’t fear us anymore. So nostalgia for the past would seem appropriate here.

  • Zedd

    Dave #26

    I think you speak of the world view of a child no matter what ethnicity, country of origin or economic status. With the exception of abusive upbringings offcourse. But children do see the trees and not the forest. Everything is up close and they see the tiny details. The big picture is lost to them.

    I don’t know if children now are as naive. I think they may be a bit more jaded. Parents don’t exclude them from adult matters. Parents look to them for comfort and relevance.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Could be, Jedd. But I’m not sure that giving children more respoinsibilitu and grounding in reality is all bad.

    Dave

  • Mohjho

    Good post Donnie.
    I too grew up in the 60s and 70s. I don’t miss those times even a little, except maybe less cars on the road. I don’t want to be one of those old farts sitting on my ass thinking about how things have gotten so bad.

    I do miss the friends and family I have lost, but I am optimistic that every new generation, (immigrants too), in this country will create a good and lasting addition to Americas ideals. It’s always a fight, but one worth fighting. The cynics, blowhards, and ney-sayers will always try to get you down. Just check out the comments.

    Really, all we have are our ideals and family. Looking at the past will not solve our problems even if it makes us feel better.
    We are living in a golden age of America. What will you say you did givin such an oportunity to live here and now?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a very long time, Donnie. It’s not easy to acknowledge a pair of rose-colored glasses, even when they’re firmly perched on your nose.

    So, good on ya, Mr. Marler!

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Donnie, I think you’re way too pessimistic here. You’re mourning the loss of a perfection humanity never had in the first place. We started out as primitive primates, and we’re working our way forward. Think of the apeman at the beginning of 2001 using a bone as a primitive tool- a weapon.

    Really, things get better for America and humanity in general. Not that this does any good for individuals dying in Darfur or massacred by Al Qaeda schmucks, but we’ve always had war and famine. In any case, we individually all eventually end up dead.

    Still, the world as a whole is wealthier than ever, with better medicine and prospects than ever. As to America specifically, we certainly have problems, but there’s never been a better time to be black (or other or gay) in the US. We’re perhaps arguing amongst ourselves somewhat more harshly than ten years ago, but then we’ve got tougher stuff to be arguing about at the moment. And if you think that we’re bickering about politics and not getting along now, think back to the Civil War.

  • STM

    Donnie Marler said: “Without entering the fray on everything else, I think a tremendous argument could be made for FDR as the greatest President of the 20th century.”

    As a foreigner, I’m with you on that one. He lived long in the memory of my parents (both of whom lived through WWII), and along with Churchill was discussed in highly reverent terms.

    But as a non-American, I can tell you that as a young child, and living in England at the time, I remember very clearly watching the drama unfolding on the television news and my mother’s open grief (yes, she wept) over the assassination of John F.Kennedy. It might as well have been a Briton of the calibre of Churchill who’d been killed, such was the mournful state of the country.

    I remember adults talking about it for many weeks … as if he’d been THEIR President.

    Food for thought, there guys. Reagan didn’t excite the same feeling outside the US (and in fact a lot of people thought it a hoot that the American people had elected a B-Grade cowboy movie actor to be the most powerful man in the western world), and no-one really has since Kennedy – although LBJ was, in my opinion, a great and capable man saddled with a dreadful disaster (Vietnam), ironically the legacy of JFK’s presidency.

    PS, the “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” stuff from Reagan was a no-brainer. Gorby had already signalled his intention to dismantle the eastern bloc as we knew it at the time. People were already crossing from east to west without and real restriction, apart from miles of red tape.

    It was pure Hollywood stuff … and that’s all it was. Americans might have thought it wonderful; a lot of the rest of us just giggled.

    Still, it was an exciting time ….

  • Donnie Marler

    STM, Yes, I know Mr. Gorbachev was already headed in that direction, but it was a PR stroke for the Gipper. Worked out fairly well for him at home.
    JFK, interesting man. My parents spoke reverently of him as well. I’m not sure if it was because of what he was or what he might have become. I suspect a bit of both.
    I’m a tremendous admirer of Sir Winston Churchill from the WWII days. If God ever made two men more perfect for the time and task than Churchill and FDR, I don’t know who they are.
    As incredible as they were, I doubt either of them could even be elected nowadays. Not perfect enough in their personal conduct by todays media frenzied five second soundbite standards.
    I always found it amusing that my grandmother, God fearing woman that she was, had only three pictures on her wall in the living room. Jesus, FDR, and her wedding picture. No one else rated such prominence in her mind.

  • STM

    Yes!! one of my grandmothers had a picture of Winston Churchill on her wall (right through to the 1970s), directly above her mantlepiece which also featured a polished up WWII anti-aircraft shell (hopefully with the high-explosive removed … something to wave at the Germans as the bastards flew over the house, perhaps!!) with the RAF insignia on it, along with a pic of my grandfather and a whole lot of cameos of handsome young men in uniform … dead family members from WWI.

    My other grandmother was Irish, so she wasn’t too keen at all on Sir Winston!

  • SIr WInston

    My other grandmother was Irish, so she wasn’t too keen at all on Sir Winston!

    Ahhh but I bet she was keen on the old boozie booze though.

  • STM

    Only a little drop of Irish whiskey. That’s whiskey with an “e”. Scotch was for “heathens”.

    It didn’t matter to my grandfather, however, who’d drink anything … especially if it was free. He also once famously refused to get into a back-yard air-raid shelter while bombs were obliterating neighbours’ houses, explaining that he was “Irish, and Hitler’s got no cause to fight with me”.

    He was on the whiskey at the time, according to my mother. He survived … luck of the Irish.

  • Donnie Marler

    LOL, STM! I think our grandfather’s would have gotten along.

  • Thane Tierney

    To Mark Saleski #13,

    Yes, I did know that Guthrie (a native-born American) wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in response to “God Bless America” (written by the Russian-born Irving Berlin). What I’ve read is that he thought the song was treacly (a judgement call, depending on your point of view) and jingoistic (invoking God in support of one’s politics, morals, or other views is usually risky business… casting the first stone, and all… I sort of like what that great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, said about being less concerned that God was on his side and more concerned that he was on God’s.)

    One of the less-sung verses from Guthrie’s tune points up his role of patriot-as-social-critic, a valuable service that seems to have come under fire of late. His comments, written so many years ago, still ring true in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And isn’t timelessness, whether in Guthrie’s or Berlin’s case, what ultimately designates a classic?

    From “This Land Is Your Land”:

    One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
    By the Relief Office I saw my people—
    As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering
    if God Blessed America for me.

  • Mark Saleski

    yes thane, the reasons given are why i like that song so much. you’re right, the concept of patriotic social critic really has been under fire recently. one of the many reasons for the poor state of sociopolitical discourse these days.

  • STM

    Rise up America … remember what it is you stand for. Bring about more cultural change, just like the late ’60s and early ’70s. Get out on the streets, with placards if need be, and march on the White House. And remember your fellow man, and the real reason America has always been great.

    Use your own real values as a nation to bring power back to the people, where it’s supposed to be, and away from those to whom democracy is but a cynical exercise: big business, lobby groups and lying, self-serving politicians.

    And while we’re there, could someone please call Coke and ask them never again to remove from sale the old 10c green-glass Coke bottles of my surf and sun childhood that have recently been reintroduced (at $1.20 a go in Australia).

    Having recently given up the packet-a-day Marlboro habit, it’s the only reminder I have left.

    But I’m serious about the other stuff. Don’t lose what you really stand for.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=diana+hartman diana hartman

    I am pleased to tell you this article is the Culture Editor’s Pick of the Week.

    Diana Hartman
    Culture Editor

  • Donnie Marler

    Thank you, Diana.