Journalism's original question is always the same: "What's going on here; and why?"
One big thing that's going on here in America is the swelling ripple of nostalgia. To paraphrase an old adage, the more things change the more we want them to be the same. No, not our technology. We love our new technology, starting from our 24/7 smartphones right up to our latest cancer-curing protocols. It's the other stuff we like the same. This is called the "hyper hormone hypothesis" which suggests what we remember during our hormonal twenties most lingers on. Watching mom baking in the kitchen...playing under the sun....dreaming under the stars.... finding love....discovering life.
However, if nostalgia is that shameless nameless feeling for our deliciously distorted memories, it is, after all, what every manufacturer, film studio and politician wants to know too. With 20% of the population projected to be seniors by 2030, this national tug of nostalgia is likely to grow in significance.
So to consider it, the PRRI [Public Religious Research Institute in Washington DC] recently published "The Divide Over America's Future: 1950 or 2050?" The paper is a scientific tracking of what was in recent years known as "family values."
Among its conclusions contrasting today with 1950:
* feelings of pessimism today are at a high of 74% vs 57%
* feelings the culture has changed for the better are at a low of 48% vs 51%
* feeling we are generally better off today is a healthy 56% among college-graduates
* feelings we are worse off today is a serious 65% among non-whites & evangelical whites
If you are not a professional statistician, how do you crunch such numbers? What constitutes the best-of-the-past in relationship to the-best-of-the present? Fuzzy, funny, fervent Norman Rockwell to the rescue....! Scanning his noblest illustrations for those old Saturday Evening Post front covers captures neatly in imagery what the data say in numbers. Like....
...families who loved, played and ate together....teachers and cops who cared together....clergy who we took to heart, because they spoke from the heart.... flags, GI's, and presidents we wanted to stand for, because they stood for us.
Rockwell would be the first to tell the PRRI that those times were flawed, but he was still able to paint what he did, because he was able to find what he did. For us to find what he did could just be the most pro-active definition of nostalgia ever...
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