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Remembering The 70's, From A Baby Boomer's Perspective

The older that I get, the more I have a yearning for the past. I’m not sure if that is a common condition of aging, because this is the first time that I’ve traveled this road, at least in this life.

It’s amazing that when I was a child, I found it thrilling, listening to my mother describe the “Good Ole Days.” She talked about Sock Hops and Hoop Skirts and local Doo Wop groups, Saddle-back Shoes and something called a “curfew.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was reminiscing, caught up in a moment of nostalgia, wishing for the days of Fats Domino, singing about “Blueberry Hill.”

Those days are far removed and whether they were good or not, better than today’s fast paced living, all depends who’s doing the reminiscing and who is doing the listening. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, as my granddaughters are the ones listening intently to tales of Afros, Platform shoes, Bell Bottom Pants, Mini Skirts, Culottes shorts and the two greatest dances of all times, The Bump and The Double Bump.

I’m pretty sure that if a poll was taken and voted on by Baby Boomers, the results would declare the decade of the 70’s as the greatest decade in American History. I think that all would agree that the 70’s were “Dynomite!” Maybe those 60’s Flower People would probably disagree, but that’s to be expected, since many of that age group thought that Woodstock was some grand cultural event, instead of what it actually was, a weekend bender, lying around in the mud, getting high, making love and listening to Rock and Roll, out in some big cow pasture.

During the 70’s, I witnessed the landing of “The Mother ship,” and witnessed Shaft be a bad Mother…shut your mouth. I was introduce to a Depression Era family that lived on a mountain, named after their family and awaited with bated breath for each Saturday, just to hear Don Cornelius end “the hippest trip in America” with “Love, Peace and Soul!”

There were street parties and neighborhood Barbecues, where a drive by meant that someone was actually driving by. We played the “Dozens,” and no one got afraid, when someone asked, “What you say about my momma?”

It was a time of idealism, where a “generation of firsts” was determined to make the world a better place. Political correctness hadn’t entered the lexicon and if there was such a thing, it was trampled on by men like Archie Bunker and George Jefferson, while diverse audiences laughed at their ignorance concerning race. We were less uptight and a whole lot cooler, dealing with social integration and two Super Bowl losses by the Dallas Cowboys to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Musical concerts actually had musicians and ticket prices to attend them weren’t astronomical. Reggie Jackson thrilled us with his three home runs performance in a World Series’ victory against the Dodgers.

We pulled for Mary Tyler Moore to “make it after all,” and never did quite understand how Sanford and Son made enough to live off selling junk, but we laughed.

When engaging in a nostalgic visit into the past, we tend to forget that things weren’t always as rosy as we make them seem. In the decade of the 70’s, I lost both of my Grandmothers.  War was still raging in Vietnam, a situation that contributed significantly to upheaval on the home front, where violence and death visited college campuses.

Throughout the South, school integration began, after a seventeen year stalemate, as the validity of Brown versus The Board of Education was litigated.

The 70’s was the decade of Watergate, initiating a distrust of the government by ordinary citizens, leading to the resignation of Richard Nixon, who originally gained the White House by rolling out his “Southern Strategy,” getting former white Democrats to join his election efforts, taking advantage of their dislike of things like the 1965 Civil Rights Bill and forced school integration.

Inflation and deflation became common terms.  Social mobility led to wholesale abandonment of minority communities.  War protest caused a generational divide.  No longer was the image of Ward and June Cleaver admirable to a younger generation. They wore their hair long and turned their backs on the straight laced wardrobes of their parents.

Drug experimentation exploded into psychedelic trips and Marijuana smoke circles. Young people were turning on and dropping out and similar to Buddha, “trying to find themselves.”

A cynic is often confused with a realist, which the latter is who I believe that I am, understanding that while some in this country regale in the idea of America’s Exceptionalism, while remaining silent on experiences of America’s evil.

In that regard, they are like the nostalgic dreamer, who shuns the bad and portray the dreamy good.  The psychology behind such pathology can’t make for great mental health and it can’t lead a nation to achieve its greatest potential. With that in mind, the question should be asked, “if the 70’s were so great, what happened?” Perhaps the answer to this question should be addressed by the Baby Boomers of that decade.

I have an opinion, as you know by now, I always do. In my estimation, the 70’s was less about Soul Train and more about two trains heading in opposite directions.

The generation that fought and won World War Two has been called “The Greatest Generation,” a salutation that is well earned, as well as it was also the generation of societal segregation.

In the decade of the 50’s America was divided for the most part, when it came to issues of race and if not for the socially and righteous consciousness of those who saw a continuation of this practice as detrimental to the overall success of the nation, it’s not difficult to imagine that racial segregation would have remained for decades to come.

The children of the 70’s have benefited immensely from cohesive actions of the well-intentioned, especially minority children. Now as I look back, mostly with fond memories, I can’t help but think at what cost was all of this achieved?

I think about white kids and how did they feel, when minority children entered their schools and became a part of familial legacies tied to those schools that the young integrationist black children had no ideas about.

How do you define such legacies going forward? Is it our school or their school? What do I identify with, the old or the new and if I am a part of the new, how can I ever claim the old as mine? Believe it or not, but I am of the opinion that these complexities have perplexed us into current times.

When explaining to my youngest son, how integration has affected the soul of America, I indulge him to think about a white father and his son, living in an exclusive neighborhood and one day the son sees a black family moving in next door. The child recognizes the male adult of the black family; he is a retired professional football star. The white child is immediately excited and request of his father that they go over and greet the new family, but the father hesitate and does so for a number of days, he even avoids the family with all of his efforts, until one day, he looks out of his window and sees his son having an enjoyable conversation with the black family and from that conversation, the passing around of a football from the retired sports’ star and the young white child, who is having the time of his life, while his father stands in the window with angst in his soul.

At this point, I ask my son, if he thinks that the white father is a racist or acting out like a racist and to be fair, he doesn’t accuse the white father of being a racist, because my son knows me well enough to know that I am trying to make a point.

And that point is, the white father knows the sports’ star personally. Years ago, before integration, the white father was a popular figure at his school, a big man on campus and a star quarterback for his football team. The next year, integration happens and that black guy that just moved in across the street happens to be the same guy that took the quarterback position from the white father, an incident that he never got over and now to see that same guy these many years later, means he never forgot how he was affected by integration.

We can claim that we are a post racial society, yet all of the evidence supports something quite different in theory. With the election of Barack Obama, it appears to be a situation similar to the black family moving in across the street from the beleaguered white father.

What is the legacy of America? Is it like the all-white schools before integration or is it like the white son that I introduced in my story? In my estimation, until we can resolve the issue of whether America belongs to all of its citizens or to a few white fathers peeking out of the window, we will be a nation stumbling about in the dark.

I think we all know the answer. The white father need to be a man and walk across the street, greet the man that once took from him what he thought was rightfully his, despite the fact that it was his high school coach, a white man, who decided that the black guy gave the team the best chance to win, the white father needs to do what he feels is necessary. If he feels like giving the black guy a piece of his mind, he should do it, which I’m sure would be confusing to the black guy, since back in high school, their team won the state championship and the white guy was one of the first to congratulate the winning quarterback.

All the black guy wants to do is enjoy the fruits of his labor and assist in producing a new legacy, where his son and the young white child can live in a world free of hang-ups.

No apologies are owed by either side at this point. What’s done is done. Those that feel like taking back a legacy that has long since “Gone with the Wind,” will find themselves in perpetual anguish. And those that feel like someone owes them something is engaged in an “Imitation of Life.”

I look at our nation’s leaders and I think about integration and how it has affected a generation that was forced to sing Cumbaya, when they knew so little about one another.

That was another time and another era. Now, a new generation, who have witnessed the rapid advance of progress are hoping not to endure the battle of spurned feeling, instead, they are looking forward to a world of enormous possibility.

I pray that they ignore hateful rhetoric and actions from adults, who seems to be wandering in the wilderness, seemly not mindful of the disobedient Israelites, who after God had freed them from bondage wasn’t satisfied about their deliverance and neither was God satisfied, he admonished them and waited for all of the adults to die out before allowing the youths to move forward.

Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that and to Baby Boomers, let’s not forget the 70’s, remember the good and deal with the bad. That's from a Boomer's perspective.


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