cmaukonen's picture

    America's (not so) liberal past. A brief history lesson.

    With all the talk of how the political right seems to be heading off a cliff and equated to fascists, I thought I would do a little reminiscing of how wonderful life was here during my childhood in the 1950s.

    Lets start with the women first.

    For the most part women were stay at home moms. Most had finished high school but few went to college. Those that did could look forward to exciting careers of teaching, nursing, secretarial work etc. College was for finding a husband, after all.  And women all wore dresses.

    The whole country was segregated. Not just the south where it was law but up north as well. You nearly never saw any blacks in any of the department stores or shopping centers or on public transportation or anywhere that was for whites. This went for other minorities in certain parts of the country as well. College for most blacks and even Latinos and Native Americans was pretty much a lost cause since the only jobs open for most were low paying.

    You did not see Blacks on TV much and in fact Nat King Cole had no sponsors for his short lived program.    Mixed race marriages were against the law in a lot of states at this time. As was any kind of homosexual activity and abortions. There were also some fairly stiff restrictions on divorce as well in some areas.

    People went to church. And if you didn't, it was seen as nearly un-American in more than a few places.

    Speaking of un-American, any talk of supporting communism, socialism, Marxism could get you fired or worse sometimes. McCarthy didn't last that long but his legacy did.    Americanism was holy, so that meant capitalism as well.

    Spouse abuse was not considered a crime when carried out by the husband.  Police did not interfere with domestic situations much.  Corporal punishment of children was the norm and not considered child abuse. And killing Black people - even in some northern areas - was considered sport and not a crime.

    We had a draft and all wars were considered good and just. Especially those against any communist countries. Toppling communist or socialist regimes and installing fascist ones was the official government policy.

    Yes life was pretty good if you were a white protestant Anglo Saxon male in this country then. And especially good if you worked for a defense contractor.

    And this is what the right wants to bring back.


    Silly me. I neglected to mention that the pay for women in those highly advanced careers was not much better than that of minorities in their areas.


    The Amos and Andy show was one of our favorites,  but I guess it was a victim of  political corrections,  but Nat King Cole's program was class long as it lasted.


    One of the memories of that time reading the daily paper,  being about 16 in '62/3,  was when McNamara said:  "We are now winning in Viet Nam... !"    The next day the headline went...  "We are no longer losing  the war...   he must a picked up the wrong speech out of the pile and got em backwards.


    Yeah, the right has come up with a whole new language for demanding a return to the white male privilege of old without actually demanding it.  So debates over contraception become debates over "religious freedom," and debates over affirmative action become debates over "reverse racism and the like."

    The irony is that the 50s were also a pretty terrible time to be a poor or working class white person.  But, they could still lord their privilege over the minorities, so there was that...

    But, they could still lord their privilege over the minorities, so there was that...

    And that had a lot to do with it. As bad off as they were, minorities had it worse.

    When I take a moment to reflect on bygone eras, I tend to wish we could take what was good about those times and hold on to them. The negative issues I wish we would not only acknowledge how wrong/harmful they were, but take the opportunity to review and learn so that 'never again'. But, so not the case.

    Currently, we seem to be repeating too many of the negative acts without any acknowledgement of how damaging these were to our world.  Never learning the lesson that doing more of the same will not bring about better results.

    It's stuns me that bigotry is still so flagrantly practiced and embraced by a large segment of our society; that so many women (of all generations) still submit to and enable the ongoing subordination of our gender; we still are sending our children off to wars without end and the majority of us still are choosing to be ignorant about our governmental processes, continuing not to take responsibility for our own actions and in-actions. 

    Truly, human beings need only to review both the past and present to know most have flunked 'everything we learned in kindergarten and beyond' in history, social studies and humanity 101.

    Thanks CM, good post, hope you post more on site. 


    Thanks AuntSam. Just an attempt at remind those that like to embellish the past some of the more darker aspects of it.

    I generally do not post political diaries much anymore. Politics gives migraines. smiley


    I also stay out of pointless discussions like the one below.

    Curious - I thought your post was a political jab at the right - the ugly they want to bring back.

    "Pointless" is your inclusion of communism, a cult that killed some 30-50 million in the 50's alone (Mao especially). Wasn't the right correct to fight that? Wasn't Franco's Spain preferable to Kim Il-Sung's North Korea, even if repressive and not a democracy?

    The 50's were great if you worked for a car company, back when Democrats supported unions and decent wages and pushed jobs programs. If you were into housing and road construction, plenty of growth as well. TV, communications, media - everything booming. And you got pensions and other benefits, along with the GI bill benefits much of the country enjoyed.

    In the 50's, teachers were paid the same as non-teachers. (with women earning 12% more than they would in non-teaching positions). Now teachers are 60% below non-teaching wages.

    My points in all this is 1) your diary would have been much better without liberal shibboleths where we look bad or petty or we exaggerate the sins of the right, and 2) while the right may want their 50's back, the Democratic party is doing a poor job of maintaining the present.

    Here is an interesting description of how McCarthyism affected the teaching profession in the 50's, as well as what union efforts in that field involved.

    What the hell is this?

    "Killing black people was considered sport"? Hardly. There were 11 blacks reported lynched in the 1950's- 8 in 1955, the tail end of a long ugly practice.

    "Toppling communist or socialist regimes and installing fascist ones was the official government policy"? No, toppling communist regimes was the policy. While killing people was the communist policy. 10 million or so in China ("the great leap forward", invasions of Xinjiang and Tibet), the last years of Stalin's rule with the subjugation of Eastern Europe, Ho's mass murders in Vietnam, North Korea's regressive state, Albania knocking off all the opposition...

    You can look at the period negatively, or you can also look at it when blacks started gaining their place in sports, music, colleges, legal practice, medicine, military.

    (The post-war slide back for women is a different matter)

    There may be a point in here, but it ran off the rails somehow.

    I'm not sure why you consistently persist in nay saying, devil's advocacy if you will. There's no end evidently to your taking the message of posts and diverting from the author's intent.  Over and over again. Always you choose to oppose some part in body of posts, critiquing instead of carrying forward positive discussion intended.  By comparison, your comment here is tame, but we all know that all too soon your comments will evolve into more detours away from the core of the blog. Of course, you usually manage to disrespect, denigrate and insult the post/author, as  in..... 

    'There may be a point in here, but it ran off the rails somehow'.

    You can assert all the rationale for doing this that's in your arsenal, but I am not the first to acknowledge and address this, so please, post your own blog on topics you consider to be worthy of your vast knowledge base instead of hijacking other's blogs in comments.

    Note: Chris, apologize for using your post for these statements, as I acknowledge it is not on the point of your issue. 




    I'm sorry, I got off the "Republicans bad, Dems good" rant, and how awful life was in the 50's.

    And sorry for being anti-Communist - very unliberal of me to obsess on atrocities. And sorry for me intruding on that image of pig-ignorant southerners hunting blacks for sport.

    Sorry, sorry, sorry.


    According to this site, 3,446 blacks were reported lynched between 1882 and 1968, or about 40 per year. So, you're right that compared to the overall time frame, the 1950s had fewer reported lynchings than previously. That same site, fwiw, lists "only" 8 reported lynchings during the '50s, and 2 of those are of whites. So, if you're a glass half-full kind of guy (or a contrarian) you might point out how good the '50s were by that metric. Of course, if you're comparing it to the present, you get a different perspective.

    As for installing fascist regimes, I agree with you that it wasn't official policy, but it sure seemed like it. It was the effect we had in numerous countries (in Central America, the Middle East, and Southeastern Asia).

    You are also right that much progress was being made. Much progress continues to be made. I think the point is the latter: we should not desire to roll back the progress we've made since then.

    I said "the tail end of a long ugly practice". Doesn't that convey the historical record?

    As I think we're discussing the 50's, the only real fascist that comes to mind might be the Shah. Somoza was more a typical dictator, the guys in Vietnam just corrupt and incompetent... would have to think of other US-designed regime changes in that period. In any case, they were usually preferable to communist regimes on a relative killing scale (the bloodthirsty guys in Guatemala being one example of an exception), though obviously liberal democracies and other compassionate options are much better.

    A not half-bad description of fascism to distinguish from garden-variety authoritarianism or dicatatorships is:

    Fascism is a dynamic ideology in a way in which an authoritarian ideology cannot be - it is populist, and has totalitarian aspirations, interested in winning continuous enthusiasm for the regime, as opposed to mere acquiescence. Fascism had its counterparts to Nazi social policies, albeit fairly ineffectively, and of course a substantial control of cinema and interest in the arts to control national life. The futurist Andreotti, who supported fascism used to rant about how bad the traditional Italian diet was in that it encouraged fatness and indolence, and that people "would rest their arm on a flabby belly rather than raise it in a fascist salute."

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