The Good Old Days

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”

Edmund Burke


Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts muses as to how conservatives and leftists view the past and the present:


Or not, depending on your point of view.  A basic difference between a more progressive spin on America and a more traditional spin is that progressives tend to believe America can be a great nation despite the evils of its past, while traditionalists tend to believe that America has been a great nation despite the evils in its past. Likewise, those who swing to the Left tend to see the changes happening as positive, while those who are more conservative will obviously see many changes as negative, especially if they’ve changed important characteristics of their society.  That Americans are divided along political lines over wanting America the way it used to be or not shouldn’t be surprising.  Nor should we assume that when people say they want the past, that they necessarily want the evils of the past.  An interesting, but hardly surprising, survey.

Go here to view the comments.



Most contemporary leftists have been brought up in “black armband” history, which views the past as a tool to wield in contemporary ideological battles.  Many of them have learned their American history purely from such ghastly texts as the late Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States which look at American history as merely a tale of evil oppression and the few brave souls who fought against it.  Such ideological fairy tales have nothing to do with true history.  Go here to read a critique of Zinn from the left.

When that bold, bad man, in Carlyle’s phrase, Oliver Cromwell wished to have his portrait painted he told the artist:  Mr. Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.

Hence the expression, “warts and all”.  True history attempts to do this.  Stephen Vincent Benet in his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, in the speech of Daniel Webster to the jury of the damned, got to the heart of how American history should be viewed by those of us who love this country:

For it was him they’d come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in the glitter of their eyes and in the way the stranger hid his mouth with one hand. And if he fought them with their own
weapons, he’d fall into their power; he knew that, though he couldn’t have told you how. It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and he’d have to wipe that out or the
case was lost. He stood there for a moment, his black eyes burning like anthracite. And then he began to speak. He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this was-just as simple and easy as a man could talk.
But he didn’t start out by condemning or reviling. He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man. And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt-the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those en-slaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

More to explorer


  1. I believe that is much of life. You don’t have to forget the bad, but dwelling on it leads only to despair. Best to dwell on the good memories and moments. Then…

    “The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

  2. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
    The American Flag belongs to each and every sovereign person, each and every citizen, in joint and common tenancy as the standard of the United States of America; as the symbol of the freedom and independence of each and every sovereign person who institutes government and establishes our nation, from the Founding Fathers to all “We, the people” a community of sovereign persons who are the ancestors of all future generations, our constitutional Posterity.
    In their myopic tunnel vision squandered in prejudice and partisanship The Supreme Court at one time decided that burning the American Flag was “freedom of speech” guarded by the First Amendment. Like “Heil Hitler”, it was free speech. Only TRUTH has free speech. TRUTH is that the American Flag belongs to each and every citizen in joint and common tenancy. And burning the American Flag is and was an assault on our freedom, on our private and common property. Burning an auditorium filled with people then can be considered free speech and peaceable assembly.
    Those individuals who cannot express themselves without injuring the whole nation must be deported to anyplace but American soil. Their free will choice, not ours.

  3. A very frustrating poll. “Mostly changed for the better” versus “mostly changed for the worse”. The question isn’t designed to elicit an intellectual response. To give it an intellectual answer, you’d need to define culture, lay out a list of the major changes to it in the last 60 years, and assign them weights. A person could spend a lifetime making that calculation. What the pollsters are really after is an instinctive response. Such a response can have value in understanding groups, but it’s got tremendous limitations. You could use it to develop an ad campaign, for example, but you couldn’t use it for policy analysis. The HuffPo headlines is a complete misuse of the poll: “Half Of Americans Want To Take The Country Back To The 1950s”. That doesn’t describe the results, or presumably the thinking of those polled. It’s written to make those who would have answered one way feel themselves better than those who would have answered the other way.

  4. I was born in 1934 and grew up in Detroit. Hope and opportunity abounded. And then things changed. Democrats took over the administration and the slope to total devastation began in the culture and the Catholic Church with Vatican II where extreme left wing thinking was standard. Peak year in America was 1955. Just my opinion, of course. Nothing good comes from the left wing. They are all about taking and not giving. They are all about control and not freedom. Liberalism is purely evil.

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