If I ever have to answer the question again about which person I’d like to have come visit us that answer would absolutely be Doris Kearns Goodwin. It wouldn’t even be inconvenient since she lives in or around Boston and she’s a big-time Red Sox fan and a world-class historian. An unbeatable combination. My only problem is I’d be afraid to say anythhing because I’d sound stupid.
I’m re-reading “No Ordinary Time: The Home Front in World War II.” I read it before. I’ve actually read it twice, once in print and the second time as an audiobook. This time, it’s the audiobook. The book is 760 pages long, so it’s not a quick read. Given the state of our world, I felt it deserved another go round and I was right.
Even though I’ve read it before, I am more appalled this time. This reading, I can clearly see how little progress we have made in the past 100 years.
We haven’t improved race relations. Social Security — which was “invented” just before this book begins — was new. It was supposed to provide actual security to the elderly. It certainly doesn’t do anything like that today. If you are forced to live entirely on Social Security, you are poor.
I suppose the only thing on which we have made any progress at all is medical care. We have some, no thanks to the Republican who are still desperately trying to get rid of it. I notice, incidentally, that they aren’t trying to get rid of their own medical care package. In their package, they get all the stuff we are denied. They are covered for everything from teeth to hearing aids. Unlike Medicare (which, rumors to the contrary, is NOT free) in which we are barely covered for basic medical care and which excludes expensive medications and considering the price gouging by big pharma, this includes almost everything we need. Meanwhile, all dental, hearing, and vision care is considered cosmetic.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Our dedicated public servants should try to live on the amount of money they give us. They should use the medical system with which we are provided. Give them six months of living like us. I bet you’d see a better system in place faster than a speeding bullet. Lucky them because they don’t have to live like us. They have a better deal.
Until I started this re-reading of “No Ordinary Time,” I hadn’t put together how World War II was when the military-industrial complex grew to its current monstrous size. This is the massive corporate environment under which we currently live and it was created because we desperately needed corporations to gear up for the big war everyone knew was coming. Our patriotic corporations refused to produce the planes, ships, and weapons we needed to fight the war until FDR raised taxes high enough to make sure all those corporation were paid enough so they could get very, very rich.
This is how and why the U.S. became the powerful economy in which the boomer generation grew up. Europe, where the war was fought, was flattened. Who was left to produce goods for the rest of the world?
What do you know! It was us!
We built our giant economy on the wreckage of the rest of the world. We also refused to accept Jews trying to escape Europe while Hitler was still letting them out. The slaughter started when no nation would take us in.
It was a hard time for the Japanese who were interned in camps even though many of them were born in the U.S. Bad for Black people who were refused everything they needed to build a decent life, including even the right to fight the war.
During this same supposedly enlightened time, the anti-lynching bill was rejected by congress and to this day has never passed. We aren’t doing so much lynching these days, but shooting dark-skinned people for having dark skin is common enough to make up the difference.
It’s astonishing to realize how little progress we’ve made. I know I probably had my head in the sand, but I was sure we’d made some progress. We didn’t fix everything, but we must have done something right, didn’t we?
When we passed abortion rights in Roe Vs. Wade when I was a young woman, that was progress, wasn’t it? When Lyndon Johnson fell on his sword to get the Civil Rights Bill passed, I was positive it was progress. When Martin Luthor King and his whole dedicated group fought and died to get voting rights in the south — wasn’t that progress?
Apparently not. Garry and I, these days, wonder if our work made any difference. Whether our good works were a sham and all progress was a hoax.
Reading this book has brought it all back. The realization that we’re still fighting the same battles we were fighting 100 years ago and will probably still be fighting these same battles 100 years from now, assuming we have a livable planet in 100 years. Assuming humans can still live here and we haven’t been wiped out by disease or climate change or both. I used to want to stay young. These days, I’m not sorry that I’m nearing the end of my run.
I’m just as happy knowing I won’t see the end of the end. It’s ugly and it is going to get worse. Much worse.