When the show started it was a Leave It to Beaver family living in a Leave It to Beaver world, albeit with jokes that were a little less cute and a little more risqué. By the time it ended about 10 years later, the '50s nostalgia had morphed into '60s nostalgia and we had come into a time where memory served me.
The '60s that I remember were scary, turbulent and kind of smelly. My '60s were violent and confrontational and took the very most basic assumptions that people were making about our society and our government and challenged them in ways that could not possibly have been portrayed on a prime time television show in the 1980s. The '60s I remembered had very little to do with Richie Cunningham and his difficult choice between going to Vietnam and staying home and marrying his college sweetheart. I'm sure that's a choice many people made, but it was never cute or sweet or solved in 24 minutes.
The spiral of nostalgia continues to tighten. We are recycling timeframes closer and closer to us. The 60s are over, the 70s are having the last dregs sucked out of them, and I've been noticing that it's impossible to step into many retail shopping establishments without being inundated with 80s music being touted as the "new" sound.
The driver behind the need for nostalgia is the need for companies to sell us products that are at once new and familiar. We want the stuff that we wanted when we were kids - the stuff we perhaps didn't get then, but can now afford. We want it because we all had crappy childhoods and were deprived and made to feel stressed and unhappy. The fact that people seem to have such a hard time finding personal fulfillment can't possibly be their fault. It's because all their dreams were not fulfilled as children, isn't it?
In 1970, "The Phil Donahue Show" premiered and over the next 24 years went from a run-of-the-mill second-string talk show featuring celebrities and musical acts to a show that took on social issues in a way that was often confrontative and controversial. The most popular of these shows proved to be "victim" shows. Someone was wronged, and Phil was there to tell America about it. But then Oprah (she started in this space too) and Sally Jesse and Rikki and Jerry got into the act and before we knew it, everyone was a victim.
Nobody was responsible for themselves anymore. If you didn't feel good, it was because someone else was keeping you from feeling good. It wasn't that you were an alcoholic, too fat, too lazy to try hard in school or had never been taught even the most basic societal norms by your parents. It was that society was against you and it wasn't your fault, and any actions on your part stemming from these wrongs done you were not your responsibility.
Now we come to the evil marriage of "I don't recall anything that happened more than 20 minutes ago" with "I am a victim and not responsible for my actions." The bastard child of this marriage is our current president, George W. Bush.
I have been listening to the testimony given by those being questioned by the 9/11 Commission. The people being questioned are members of the current administration, as well as members of the Clinton administration and the answers being given are a textbook definition of "dysfunctional." Just one tiny instance: Dr. Condoleezza Rice was given a distillation of all of the information that both the FBI and the CIA had, but nobody "told [her] what to do with it," so she never passed it along to her boss, although she sees nothing in this failure to apologize for.
Everyone in the current administration defends their decision to go to war, but nobody, neither the questioners nor the questioned, are specifying which war. There is the original war in Afghanistan, where we were pursuing al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the alleged perpetrators of the World Trade Center attacks. But that war just sort of .... .... tailed off. And in its place, we have the "War Against Terrorism," which is much less clearly defined and therefore can be manipulated to include anybody who won't do business with the U.S. on the U.S.'s own terms. Saddam Hussein, for instance.
We need these wars, because we as a country were wronged by bad people who don't like us because we have freedom and thong bikinis and both Pepsi AND Coke and SUVs and George Foreman sandwich grills. They are desperately jealous that we have free elections for which nobody shows up to vote and entire supermarket aisles devoted solely to breakfast cereal. What have we ever done to them that they should be so violently against us, other than to live a blessed life?
We are the victims here, and George W. Bush is going to keep hammering that message home. The U.S. is not just blameless, but is showing what a good and kind and generous nation it is by going in and "liberating" those ungrateful bastard Iraqis, whether they want it or not. And because we're Americans, we don't remember that Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, that Hans Blix stated months before the invasions were planned that there were no weapons of mass destruction or chemical weapons, that Hussein promised that the Iraqis would draw this conflict out into a guerilla war that would leave the U.S. with the blood of its own soldiers and a lot of Iraqi civilians on its hands.
The rest of the world never bought our story. The rest of the world pointed to our past actions and said "You made your bed. You lie in it alone." But Americans don't understand that. The rest of the world said "There is no reason to do this," but they don't understand what it's like to be the victim, do they? Do they?
We don't watch television at my house, so I'm missing out on the campaign ads that I understand have already started. George W. Bush is telling people that he understands what America needs to succeed. He understands the need to ignore the past and keep beating the drum of victimhood long and loud, leading our troops into a messy and unpopular war that even our tenuous allies are unwilling to continue fighting. And the more shit he stirs up, the more America isolates itself, the more we will be able, as a nation, to wallow in our well-earned victimhood.
I'm not a victim. I'm not willing to be quiet. I'm tired of this.