The flip side of the ’50s

This is in response to Harold W. Hurst’s [letter] “The 1950s in America were a better time,” Aug. 17, 2016. Although Mr. Hurst and I do agree that Hillary Clinton is by far the logical and best candidate for president, the 1950s were not the peaches and roses decade for everyone! It’s really funny how much some people romanticize about the past.

Believe me, I get it. The 1950s may have been a better time for some people.

However, let’s not get things twisted. The reality is that the past is the past for a good reason. It amazes me how some people look at the 1950s as them “Good Ole Days.” That wonderful and magnificent time when people lived morally and hard work and dedication were respected and admired. The streets were paved with gold, the sun was always shining, and there were always rainbows of fairness and equality.

Ridiculous! The 1950s weren’t so great for everyone! Here are some very good reasons why:

Jim Crow Laws — Before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, racism and segregation were very tangible and culturally ingrained practices. The 1950s was a world of “whites only” drinking fountains and “colored only” cafés. Most desegregation didn’t happen until the 1960s — amid violence.

McCarthyism — Have you now or ever been a member of the Communist party? In the 1950s, the Red Fear had a solid grip on America, and under the leadership of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. government set out to eradicate the subversive forces of communism hiding in our nation. Those targeted by Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were largely political enemies, civil rights activists, academics, artists, suspected homosexuals, and yes, even a few actual communists (although in this country, we’ve always valued political freedom).

J. Edgar Hoover — Hoover was a frightening man, even if he did have a great women’s shoe collection of his own. If you lived during the 1950s, Hoover may have had a file on you. He was a megalomaniac and a paranoid protector of America and its secrets. Hoover singlehandedly targeted a number of American “subversives,” including Martin Luther King Jr.!

1950s Television — Have you ever sat down and watched television from the 1950s? Every time I watched an episode of “I Love Lucy,” every episode was the same! “The Honeymooners” was in the same realm. Television back then had three sitcom clichés of the day: jealousy, misunderstanding and defying gender roles (women working in the office? Oh, no!) That’s the way women were looked upon in the 1950s.

Sorry, Working Women — In spite of the common fantasy perpetuated in media and some public figures, many women worked outside the home in the 1950s. Nearly every woman in a working-class family found work, usually in some kind of domestic role (maid, nanny, etc.); middle-class women generally stayed at home and “housewife depression” was commonplace (often referred to as the “feminine mystique”). As a woman in the 1950s, if you decided you wanted to work outside the home, less pay was common and acceptable as was passing you up for promotion or other benefits!

Domestic violence — It wasn’t until the 1970s that domestic violence became criminally prosecutable. While there are a few cases of extreme domestic violence going to court (usually involving murder), beating on your wife and children was considered discipline back then, and law enforcement generally didn’t respond! In some states (California), it was actually illegal to prosecute men for spousal abuse!

No Civil Rights — The Civil Rights Act was not passed until 1964. Some people think that the job market is tough now; just think of what it was like when you could be screened for skin color and gender.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t anything good about the 1950s! In contrast to Mr. Hurst’s opinion on that time period, it all depends on who and what you were during that period! It wasn’t a better time for everyone. Most times in our past were not better times. That is just why the past is the past!

Francis A. Bethel III
Dover

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