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Guest Column

December 14, 2013

As the decades pass, are we better off?

Since February 2011, I have been the anonymous scribe who has brought you “Step Back in Time,” the daily column which contains news bits from 25 years ago and 50 years ago. This means I have been culling stories, some simple and others terribly complex, from the late 1980s and the early 1960s, for the Daily Star’s readers, doing so with the consciousness of a middle-aged woman living in the second decade of the 21st century.

I read somewhere this year that in these days, it is more common to find people looking backward than forward. Are people in the second decade of the 21st century living in greater fear of violence and deprivation than they have in times past?

Most likely, there is no authoritative answer to that question. Fear may always be anxiety at the prospect of want and suffering, but how we experience it and how it effects us, it seems to me, must be mutable.

And so many times I felt nostalgia for the world and even the United States of the late 1980s. This perhaps has more to do with my youth and inexperience, my naïve hopefulness that anything was possible if I tried hard enough, than with any Golden Age that I was living in. But I felt a different and strange nostalgia for the early 1960s, for this was an attraction to a time in which I had never lived.

My parents were youngsters itching to get hitched when the young John F. Kennedy ran for the presidency, won and took office that bitterly cold day. During those years, my father worked blue-collar jobs and drag-raced cars down the boulevard of a suburban New Jersey town. He saw JFK campaign in Passaic and knew that was his man.

My mother, daughter of respectable Republicans, took a secretarial job at the United Nations. “It was the spirit of the time,” she explained to me. “You wanted to serve.” When JFK won by his famously slim margin, my father called my mother at her home and let out a “WHOO-EEE!” that was surely audible to her less-than-thrilled parents.

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