How did it come to be that 1990 is nearly 30 years ago?
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but bear with me folks, I am still marveling at this aging thing.
The other night in the newsroom, I found myself working with three of our newer staff. It occurred to me that combining the ages of two of them was less than my own age.
They didn’t know who Tom Mix was. Ok, so that was before my time, too, but I grew up with Tom Mix mugs in the cupboard and hearing the ditty “Shave and a haircut, two bits. Who was the barber, Tom Mix.”
The staff here don’t remember JC Penney at the Bradford Mall. Few of them remember going inside the mall and watching the mechanical Pink Panther ice skate on top of the fountain in the winter time. Or eating at the diner by Woolworth’s — The Harvest House.
Time is a funny thing. I can remember back before the days of Google, writing out song lyrics to post in our lockers at school. And making cassette tapes off the radio when Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown played.
I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember getting cards from my classmates in second grade when I was out with the chickenpox.
As a child, I remember giggling at my father’s “back in my day” speeches, but I find myself giving them at work now.
Back in my day when the school principal had a paddle for disobedient children. When I carried my own Benadryl for my allergies or Tylenol for a headache in my purse to school and wasn’t breaking any laws. When you got in trouble in school and knew you were going to get it worse when you got home.
I’m certainly not saying that nothing has changed for the better, and I don’t look at the past through rose-colored glasses. There were hard times then, and there are hard times now. What has changed, I think, is our reactions.
Case in point: Nike’s shoe with the Betsy Ross flag on it. It was recalled because a football player thought it was racist to celebrate what the flag looked like at the time that slavery was in practice in the United States.
There are several things that bother me about this. One, who cares what this guy thinks about anything? I have far more respect for the opinion of Colin Powell than Colin Kaepernick. I didn’t care when Kaepernick was endorsing Nike, and I don’t care now that he is criticizing them. If Colin Powell was bothered by the shoes, I would take notice.
And two, it should bother people more that Nike, which produces its merchandise outside of America, is seeking to capitalize on patriotism by allegedly paying low wages and having poor working conditions.
Again, it’s our reactions that have changed more than anything else. It’s almost as if people are looking for a reason to be outraged.
People are outraged by President Trump’s crass language or behavior. This isn’t the first time a president has behaved badly. Remember Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, who was famous for urinating on people, among other charming behaviors?
No, it doesn’t make it right. I’m simply pointing out that reactions have changed.
In February, Nancy Rommelmann wrote an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Times about outrage culture being out of control. The journalist was hosting a YouTube series that discussed, among other things, “some excesses of the MeToo movement.”
Her husband had a 15-year-old coffee-roasting company. A former employee of his went to the media about her show. And her husband’s business suffered.
She hit it right on the head, in my opinion, in her piece in the Times.
“This is the current pitch of outrage culture, where voicing an opinion someone says she sees as a threat qualifies you for instant annihilation, no questions asked. Why ask questions, when it’s more expedient, maybe more kickass, to turn anything you might disagree with into an emergency?” she wrote.
“A sense of emergency is what people on all sides have developed an addiction to. Show us the next person to hate and we are so there; we take an animalistic pleasure in destroying the kid in the MAGA hat, in fashioning a decades-old interview with John Wayne into a knife with which to posthumously eviscerate the actor. And then we look for the next target.”
I think this sense of constant outrage, of looking for the next thing to be upset about, is creating a growing schism in America.
This discord prevalent in society is preventing solutions, not creating them. And the perceived anonymity of the internet only throws fuel on the fire.
We can’t change the past. But we can shape the future. Imagine what we could accomplish if we as a society pulled our minds away from past wrongs and worked toward a better future.
(Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor.)