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October 24, 2013 5:22 PM The Lost America

By Ed Kilgore

Paul Waldman today makes a point about cultural nostalgia that’s pretty obvious once you hear it. But clearly, a lot of people haven’t, particularly those who think the America they grew up in is being ruined by treasonous intellectuals, uppity feminists, P.C. Thought Police who don’t want you to tell bigoted jokes, and of course, those people who want everything you worked for so long to acquire.

But of course, “the America that I grew up in” is a place that exists only in the imagination—everyone’s imagination. This is from an interview in Salon the other day with Adam Goldberg, creator of The Goldbergs, an ABC sitcom set in the 1980s:
“Why do you think audiences will be interested in a family show specifically set in the 1980s?”
“I think the ’80s works for a TV show because it’s the last time the world was simple. It was before the Internet really changed everything and made the world really small. Today the whole notion of family is a bit different: You can reach out and if you don’t get any support at home, you can find a like-minded family on blogs or on Facebook. In the ’80s your family was the people in your house, at your dinner table, and the people you went to school with, those were your friends. You basically couldn’t find other friends. So it was really the last time where the world was still simple and small.”
No, no, no. The ’80s wasn’t “the last time the world was simple.” The ’80s was the last time when your world was simple. Can you guess why? Because you were a child!

But as the Apostle Paul (not Waldman, but the one from Tarsus) once observed, there comes a time to “put away childish things,” instead of building a political movement out of yearning for their return at other people’s expense. Back to Waldman:

That isn’t to say cultures don’t change, and American culture changes faster than most. But any time you’re tempted to say something like “The world was a more innocent place when I was a kid,” try to remember that that’s kind of like believing as an adult that your dog really did go to live on a farm upstate.
Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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