“Back in the days When we spoke in civilized voices…”

Before

I thought that I had lived through an era of momentous historical significance. Anyone born at the half-century that began with the end of a red-hot war and the start of the Cold War has witnessed an America emerging from its provincial past, replete with remarkable achievements and self-imposed setbacks. We were a nation that would emerge from the doldrums and adversity of a depression and war to a position of world dominance. The transformation would not be simple or without its trials and tribulations. There would be political social turmoil that would bring domestic unrest. On the other hand our new standing as leader of the “free world” brought on responsibilities that would test our resolve and our hegemony. Our image of ourselves was always complex. At times, looking in the mirror staring back at us was a visage that instilled pride; at other times the reflection instilled shame. The disparity told us that we were better than this-demonstrably because at times we had proved it.

The Obama promise

It may have been sappy, but as a member of the aging baby boomer generation, I remember the feeling as well — — exhilaration. It was the first time in my lifetime that I thought we had reached a point of demarcation in our national development that promised we could never go back to before. The phrase is not mine, of course. They belong to the collaboration of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who composed the music for the 1998 Broadway musical, Ragtime. Based upon E.L. Doctorow’s bestselling novel about race and class in early 20th century America, The story about aspirational blacks, upper-class whites, and a Jewish immigrant, encaptures the enigma of the American story. “We’re all Coalhouse!” was a sound-bite that resonates in my memory. The title of this diary is taken from the powerful feminist ballad “Back to Before” that was sung by Mother played so brilliantly by the late, Marin Mazzie.

Trump’s America

The theme of the Trump presidency is all about going back to a time when America was uncomplicated, white, smug. His view of our nation of one that is ungenerous, mean, and uncaring. It is an America that many fought hard to make better. Trump’s view is one of an America that never was, that only existed in the minds of and hearts of racists:

Vote

Since I began with the Ahrens and Flaherty lyric, I will end with the bridge from their Ragtime anthem that today seems even more relevant:

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