I was watching a documentary the other day about something that happened more than 80 years ago. Looking at the faces of the people in the program I saw an innocence and a wholesomeness that are missing today. I’ve never been much for “dreaming,” not in that innocent sense that dreamers have, but these days I think about how different our lives are today and how that’s not always a good thing.
“I feel like I missed out,” I told Michael. “Even though that first half of the 20th century had its issues, it was a more innocent and a simpler time. I wish we lived in a time like that now.”
He considered, for a moment, then asked, “Do you think it’s just that we didn’t know about the issues of the day? Remember, the news was only 15 minutes a day back in the 1950s. We’re inundated with news today.”
It was my turn to consider. “Well, our PARENTS knew about the problems,” I said. “Remember ‘better dead than Red’? the McCarthy hearings? Duck and cover? We didn’t understand it because we were so young. But our parents did.”
I went on. “I know it’s sacrilege to say this, because I’m an ardent feminist and would have made an unlikely homemaker, but there’s something to be said about knowing your role in life, no matter how limited. Knowing where you fit in. Having the kind of predictability that we DIDN’T have.”
The conundrum of choices
Even coming up as a young feminist, I saw that having so many choices made my life more complicated. But I never really longed for simplicity until recent years. Years in which the world has gotten so much crazier than it was in my childhood.
And of course, I am well aware that I’m speaking from the point of view of a white person raised in an upper middle-class first-generation American family. That is, of course, the only point of view I have real life experience with.
As we talked further, I realized that it wasn’t the era as much as it was the innocence. That as a child, I might have gone through the motions of duck and cover at school, but I really had no idea what it all meant. Not like my parents did. I didn’t have the visceral fear of the Communists bombing us, for example, because I was just too young.
My parents, who were younger than I am now, felt that fear. They felt some of what I’m feeling now. Although they probably could never have imagined the kinds of things we’re facing today, on all fronts.
Sometimes reality seems overwhelming.
The innocence of childhood is a beautiful thing, pure and unsullied. And as I’ve grown weary of the ridiculous and terrible, frightening and silly things going on in our world, I long to recapture it.
Like a child, I long to be insulated from the terrors we’re inundated with every day.
But as an adult in the 21st century, I know there is no escape from this world we live in, save death.
Except for maybe, dreaming.