Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?"
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
I hear it. Friends who pine for the past, at least their own past. Nostalgia.
I enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." It brought back memories of classic rock, old Wheaties boxes, and even "Mannix."
From my own Detroit childhood, I recall the leafy neighborhoods I could walk through alone, perhaps splashing puddles in my rubber boots, or crunching leafy piles full of fall color. One Christmas, later, the family gathered to watch "Casablanca," as the grandchildren played with a pile of wrapping paper more than their new toys.
I miss acts of kindness that were welcomed, not dismissed as “virtue signaling.” Perhaps most, I miss the importance we attached to truth.
But the good ol’ days were not good for everyone. And a blind faith in the past is a threat to the very nation we claim to love.
As our nation celebrated Old Glory, perhaps with fireworks at Bonanzaville or the amazing Macy’s display, we could be thankful for much in this country – free speech, free press, among others. We can be grateful to “Founding Fathers” that created foundational institutions and documents to even correct some of their own glaring flaws – brutal slavery, inequality. But we cannot ignore the pain.
As we were preparing flags and brats, we found that the bodies of many Native American children were found buried on the grounds of residential schools in Canada. One school alone produced over 700 bodies. These schools were designed to strip children of kin and culture, punishing children if they spoke their native tongue. Beatings, rape, disease. Forcing Christianity, thus violating the very Bible they taught. No, the revelations do not justify the resulting church arsons, but there was justifiable, undeniable anger.
America had many more of these residential schools; one in Bismarck was mentioned in the film "Let Him Go."
We could point to other painful examples: from Japanese internment to voting restrictions for women and Blacks. Many schools and neighborhoods forbid Irish, Italian, African – American, or Jewish residents. Even in my lifetime.
If we give blanket praise to the past, we insult heroes who improved our country: from Abraham Lincoln to journalist Ida B. Wells, to union leader Walter Reuther, and President Truman who integrated the military, granting increased freedom here for those who fought for freedom overseas.
Should the world forget the Holocaust, with a former president praising Hitler? Should we not remember the adage: “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it”?
On HGTV, I watched "Hometown Takeover." In seedy, small town Wetumpka, Alabama, hosts Erin and Ben Napier sparked rebirth, including renovating the house of a respected, beloved Black police officer. Her white colleagues jumped at the chance to lend a hand. I marveled. My mother hailed from nearby Georgia, living in terror and degradation. What a change.
To acknowledge fault is no treachery. As one scripture notes, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”: free to heal, to forgive and even to restore. Whether in a relationship or in a country, such a reconciliation, based on truth, can deepen the love, deepen the patriotism.
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.