Decades that suck: 1950s

Living in the somewhat rural Midwest I end up talking to a lot of Trump supporters, or at least people who seem to represent themselves in a way that would have me believe they are. That being said, as much as I abhor the actions our president has taken since his election, I can’t completely isolate myself in some sort of anti-Trump thought bubble.

I have to deal with these people; even though I believe most are naive about the long term implications of Trumps current decisions and orders as president, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. One thing I continue to hear from people, and seems to persist in the right-leaning media outlets as well, is that the 1950s was an idyllic time and that Trump is going to return us to a similar era.

To this I say, and with much confusion from the community I live in, idyllic for who? I think this is an important question to consider. There are things I like about the 1950s; mainly I like the artistic aesthetic used in marketing, design, fashion, music and etc. That is where it ends for me though.

I wasn’t born in the 1950s, but I think for most people who have an obsession with that era, they rely on memory and not objective historical accounts. People tend to idolize the time of their youth,  but there was a lot that was wrong with the 50s, and memory is an unreliable bitch.

Growing up in a minority- majority city like Flint, Mich, and then moving to where I live now, I guess my outlook on that era is a bit different. The 1950s seemed to be great for the white middle class, there were tons of manufacturing jobs, and people on a surface level claimed to be Christian. So basically if you were white, and a Christian, times were probably pretty great. That is if you were a white protestant Christian, because those sneaky Catholics couldn’t be trusted.

The 1950s might have been the era that the civil rights movement first began, but that doesn’t mean it was exactly a great time to be alive as a black person. Brown vs. The Board of Education was a step in the right direction, but that one judgement didn’t completely erase the cultural baggage of racism from that era. We continue to have some of that baggage today, which is evidenced by pocket events involving police brutality and Nazi/ KKK symbolism.

The role of women in society, and their opportunities were also less. Career opportunities are much greater for women today, than they were in 50s. A common stereotype is that during this decade women went to college to find a husband, now women have the freedom to pursue any career path they please. Some would say that sexism still exists in mainstream American culture, and although there are probably traces left, it is nowhere near the level it was in the 50s. Like Christina Hoff Sommers discussed in her book “The War Against Boys,” women have the right to be the housewife, school teacher, or a secretary if they wish to be; and there is nothing wrong with that, but they also now have the opportunity to be scientists, engineers, plumbers and etc. as well.

Most people were expected to live a hetero normative life during this time, and sexuality by-in-large was pretty uninteresting. Being freaky or gay was looked upon negatively by society, or as some sort of deranged mental disorder. Perverts have always existed, but the strictly missionary stereotype of the 1950s holds little interest to me.

Not at all a proponent of Communism, I am also not a proponent of McCarthyism either. I think people have the right to their opinions, no matter how insane it might be, and to prosecute someone for that is horrible. That is exactly what Joseph McCarthy did until 1956. It wasn’t just communists though, it was whoever he took issue with. If McCarthy didn’t like you he would label you as a communist and an enemy of the state. If you weren’t thrown in prison then the social stigma that was now attached basically ended whatever job prospects you might of had.

There are a number of other issues that plagued this era, and perhaps it could make for another article someday. The point is, that the 1950s isn’t idyllic, no era is. There will always be positives and negatives. The time we live in is probably the best time to be alive in the U.S.A. We continue to improve upon the progress that was made on past decades. Wishing Trump to reform the U.S. in a manner that is closer to that decade is a lot of wishful thinking for an era that objectively isn’t any better than the one we live in today.

It is always a matter of perspective, and as a white college-educated male who grew up in a protestant household the sky would probably be the limit for me in the 1950s. It’s just that if you don’t fit into that particular demographic the world might have been a pretty dark place, and that I don’t agree with.


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