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“It Was Much Kinder Then”?

i miss the america - tris spencer dot comThere is a group I belong to on FB that is filled with women who don’t put up with bullshit. And I deeply appreciate the way those womyn are always quick to question whatever narrative is presented to them.

One of the womyn posted this morning the following meme/graphic (at right) that one of her friends posted to her own timeline with the comment, “It was much kinder then.”


It astounds me to contemplate how much white social privilege is encoded in that shiny meme to the right. And it’s unbelievable to me that the person who posted it spared no though toward unpacking that privilege.

Here are some of the things that have happened–some of them in my own lifetime–that refute the fantastical lie that American society used to be “kinder.”


(Photo: William Arthur Swift/Courtesy of Ball State University)

Jim Crow laws were passed in many states after the Civil War.

The Ku Klux Klan arose to persecute people of color who “didn’t know their place.”  Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) set forth a “separate but equal” standard. People of color could not share bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, etc. without fear of reprisal from the KKK.

An organized campaign was begun in the early 20th century to deny American women the right to vote. Hate and violence were heaped upon suffragettes and their supporters. “Artists created political cartoons that mocked suffragists. Religious leaders spoke out against women’s political activism from the pulpit. Articles attacked women who took part in public life. Even without a coordinating institution, opposition to suffrage remained popular.” 


(Photo: Library of Congress)

The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Many older, white conservatives never forgave JFK and LBJ for this. American conservatives decided a long time ago now–53 years, to be exact–that they’d rather destroy our society rather than letting everyone participate equally in it.

Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) happened less than a decade before I was born. Conservatives set out to destroy the public school system so that white people would not have to sit in the same classrooms with people of color (POC). They’re still working on it.

People heaped hate upon the head of a 13-year-old boy, Ryan White, who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion that he needed for his hemophilia. Ryan’s mother tells us that, “It was really bad. People were really cruel, people said that he had to be gay, that he had to have done something bad or wrong, or he wouldn’t have had it. It was God’s punishment, we heard the God’s punishment a lot. That somehow, some way he had done something he shouldn’t have done or he wouldn’t have gotten AIDS.”

I mean, do these people even read their bibles“Neither this [child] nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3, NIV)

Americans who weren’t heterosexual back in the day were often in the closet. And when they came out, heteronormative people savaged them.

People who are neither Christians nor cared to enshrine Christianity as the national religion have faced marginalization and violence since the early founding days of the United States.

(Photo: Rhona Wise / AFP / Getty)

Today, parents who’ve lost children to gun violence are showered with mocking abuse–even by conservative politicians. And children who themselves have been personally impacted by gun violence and had the temerity to stand up to the gun lobby are taunted and mocked by the conservative media.

We have BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Pool Patrol Paula, the Fuck your Feelings imbeciles, and more.

None of these attitudes are present in us at birth. It’s all learned from the people around us.

And wouldn’t you know it–now we have all these “calls for civility” emanating from the bullies on the Right. That sounds an awful lot like “quit being uppity” to me. Since Godwin’s Law has been shredded, I’ll also point out that we as a nation have had this civility discussion before.



I think what some (possibly) well-intentioned people are trying to say with the meme up top is that they long to return to a time when they were innocent. They wish they didn’t know about all of the ways that humans put their fellow humans on the ground and then give them a hard kick to the balls for good measure. They wish they didn’t have to deal with “uppity n****rs” (their words, not mine) and “feminist/lesbians” and nonbinary people and godless atheists and witches. You know what? It’s indefensible that a grown-ass American should long for innocence when confronted with what takes place in, by, and on behalf of this country.

Don’t wish for the return of your innocence. Because you will pay for it with your power.

There is no way that any reasonable person can argue or believe that Americans were somehow kinder in years gone by.


(Photo: Unknown)

Even with all of the above said, I’m not one who promotes an ecumenical sort of kindness in society. I’m a hardass crone who’s especially sick of Americans who use their “bible” to justify their atrociousness and their atrocities.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in being kind to trees and animals and children. But if you’re a grown-ass adult who’s vomiting out racist or fascist bullshit in my vicinity, don’t ever expect me to be kind about that. EVER.

After seeing that original meme up top, I just felt it was necessary to take a stand about the myth of a “kinder, gentler America.” That America exists only in the minds of deluded people. And I’m ready for Reality to sucker-punch their white, heteronormative fantasies to the pavement.

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