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Davis Journal

Today’s new challenges aren’t really that new

May 12, 2022 11:00AM ● By Bryan Gray

I saw an old friend last month, and after chatting about senior moments and former acquaintances, and hip replacements – typical “old fogie” conversations – his outlook on life was pleasant and optimistic in a time of rage and frustration.

“It’s a whole different world today than when we were getting together 25 years ago,” he said. “A lot of what we see today is depressing. But then again, like I tell my son and daughter, we’ve seen a lot worse and yet we bounced right back.”

My old friend Chuck is not a scholar. He didn’t attend college. He worked in the retail industry almost all of his life, never being boosted into senior management. He and his wife had their arguments over the years, but they’ve been married 58 years.  Chuck is now 80; in other words, he’s been around the block a few times, getting a full view of our country’s comings and goings. 

Inflation? We’ve experiencing it now, but it was far worse some 40 years ago when, adjusted for the value of the dollar, the price of gasoline was significantly higher than today. There was a time when Saudi Arabia cut off the oil supplies, and motorists had to wait in hour-long lines to even pump a gallon of gasoline. And as for today’s current rising interest rates, my very first purchase of a tax-free municipal bond offered me a bloated 18% return – more than six times what a similar bond pays today.

We are currently seeing an increase in violent crime and downgraded relationships between races. However, less than 50 years ago violent riots torched some of the country’s major cities, destroying houses, neighborhoods, and shopping areas.

The Putin-led war in Ukraine has left us shaking our heads, with many people concerned that a nuclear war is just around the corner. In the 1950s, however, the Cold War loomed as the precursor to a nuclear nightmare, and I recall bomb shelters and “sheltering-in-place” exercises in our public schools.

Yes, today we have controversial squabbles over gay and transgender individuals. But it wasn’t long ago that interracial dating was scorned (with interracial marriage outlawed), and police often raided bars and jailed gay men and women for simply holding hands.

As for the current battle over generally non-existent Critical Race Theory, I remember the John Birch Society claiming that our school libraries were filled with “communist” textbooks. And for those politicians hollering that society needs to protect people from sexuality, it wasn’t long ago that a married couple couldn’t be shown sharing the same bed in the “I Love Lucy” television series and Elvis Presley was criticized by preachers for swiveling his hips.

The “culture wars” have existed since I was born. And as Chuck says, “Hey, we survived all that and moved on. We probably will again. But as for that aching hip…Man, it sure is not fun growing old.”