1950's: Ah! The good ol' days .... When "every pickup in the high school parking lot had a loaded rifle in the rack, and all the kids had knives on their belts, yet nobody got killed there." (When disputes were settled with fistfights in the parking lot after school.) I hear this chorus from people my father's age.
These folks are as stunned and outraged by school shootings as the rest of us, and it seems to me that their solution often sounds like a hopeless wish: "Let's go back to the way it was in the 1950's"; when working class Americans were still infused with the nationalism of World War II, pledging daily allegiance to our banner (whether children understood the meaning of the words, or not). Back to when America was blessed in the eyes of their(Christian) God, as borne out by our victory overseas, and the fact that the War had never reached our hallowed shores. When white Christendom was (obviously) the American way.
They long for that idyllic America where only fathers worked outside the home (and Daddy's paycheck was enough to support an entire family); when couples stayed married 'til death did them part (regardless of what might go on behind closed doors); and children were taught to respect their elders (not uncommonly, with a belt applied to the gluteous maximus out behind the woodshed.)
It seems to me that maybe they forget what happened next:
The Greatest Generation gave birth to the Baby Boomers, and raised them (us) to be independent, conscientious, and kind .... but those kids turned into "dirty hippies" taking drugs, protesting a senseless and bloody war in southeast Asia and the oppression of people of color in the Deep South, and breaking the taboo against (openly) engaging in "premarital sex".
The Women's Liberation Movement opened opportunities for women to pursue professions that had previously been closed to them. More than any other cultural shift, this development changed our American way of life.
Although gender roles continued to be restrictive, patriarchal constraints have gradually loosened. Women gained the power to support themselves when necessary; were no longer doomed to remain in abusive marriages, and we could even envision for ourselves - and our daughters - independent lives such as few women had aspired to, up until that time.
- I often think about my grandmother's lament: She had wanted to become a nurse, but her affluent family discouraged her from pursuing that occupation, as they perceived it as disreputable. So she became a teacher.
- My mother was a clerical worker, who eventually advanced into a managerial position. She was among the few working wives in our little blue collar town. Mom ultimately took early retirement in order to accompany my father when his profession took him to another region. Her husband's career was always the priority. I doubt that it ever occurred to either one of them that it should ever be otherwise.