why are we still fetishizing the past?

Loretta, smacking Ronny Cammareri, says, SNAP OUT OF IT!
this is the only accurate response, I think.

I mean, it’s 2020, for gods’ sake. We’re in the middle of a plague. We’re struggling through the turbulent last months of a demagogue’s ascendancy. If there is any time in post-Berlin Wall history when we should be glaringly aware that the past is present, and is also horrific, it should surely be NOW—and yet, in this year of hellscape 2020, there are still people bemoaning that they didn’t live through World War I, or the Great Depression, or the flu of 1918. And, my God, I really can’t even.

I saw other peoples’ comments on the tweet long before I finally saw the misbegotten thing itself, which meant that yesterday morning I knew someone was declaiming the glories of living in ye olden days. I finally saw the original much later, and did some wailing and fist-shaking at my computer, as one does in this age of COVID. I mean, good God. I haven’t seen my extended family in nearly a year. God knows how much longer it will be. My rights are being legislated away—and, as an educated white woman, I’m wildly privileged, and safer than so many of my neighbors.

My (maternal) grandmother, God rest her soul, was enamored of the past. I never understood why. It was, after all, in Ye Olden Days when a horse killed her father with a kick to the head. (I’m told the horse was very sad, but much good that did my great-grandfather.) It was also Ye Olden Days when she had the polio that would wreck her health and her body for the rest of her life. And, of course, it was Ye Olden Days when she lived on a farm in Oregon (which deserves its own giant Asterisks) with no indoor plumping, but a massive, mutli-hole outhouse. I’m very fond of indoor plumbing, and I’m terribly uninterested in living in Ye Olden Days.

The Oregon Asterisks brings up another side of history that some of us (that is, my fellow white people) like to forget: white supremacist violence. Oregon was set up as a strange white supremacist haven out West, the equivalent of an entire sundown state. Oregon lawmakers were at it even before they got statehood, and enshrined racism in their new state constitution. They were, of course, hardly alone. Chicago’s history runs with blood, and so does every other city’s in this country. (And that’s even before we talk about redlining, and all the ways in which laws are used as weapons against our fellow Americans.)

Despite Oregon’s attempts, despite our whitewashing, despite the KKK, the past was never all white. It was never all male, either, nor all straight—but we far too often forget its diversity. I’m a woman, neurodiverse, with terrible lungs, in chronic pain, and I wouldn’t have made it too far in Ye Olden Days. I mean, even if I’d managed to survive (which is questionable), I never would have owned myself—unless, somehow, I could turn into Aunt March, and be an ill-tempered wealthy old lady in my fancy mansion, epitomizing the Crone. (In a way, Aunt March was living the dream. Also, she has a lot in common with my paternal grandmother. I think they would have hated each other.)

I read historical fiction, and love it. I devour history: the greatest tragedy ever written, it is, full of triumph and so much despair, bleeding and weeping into the present, where we must stand together to attempt to build something better, brighter, bigger: something that encompasses far more of us than have been included in Ye Olden Days. But would I ever want to live in the past? Oh, God. Never.

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