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I Miss The Old America

I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life in the sleepy Canadian town of Fort Erie. There was nothing much to do there, especially when I was a teenager, so we spent a lot of time in the city across the river, which was Buffalo, New York.

But the standards of the time back in the 1960s, Buffalo was a great city, with a vibrant downtown core. It was a place where my dad would take me to watch wrestling on Friday night. My dad worked in customs and was well connected with a lot of the people who ran enterprises like wrestling and hockey and were always giving him tickets.

Buffalo was also where we bought all our clothes and shoes, and it was all good because, believe it or not, our dollar was worth a bit more than the Yankee greenback.

We would also do a lot of eating in Buffalo. The restaurants there really pilled on the food, and a lot of it was fantastic.

Over the course of the years, I got to meet and befriend a lot of Americans, many of whom were girls, but there were also a couple of guys. Many of the people I knew were folks who had little cottages in Crystal Beach, which at one time, was one of Canada’s premiere amusement parks. One summer I got a job running the merry-go-round, which, of course, was a great way to meet more girls.

But what I remember most about the Americans I knew is that they were really a lot like us. Many of them had what we could call Buffalo accents, which was kind of like a working-class New England accent with a harder edge.

This was the era of the Kennedy dynasty in America, and nobody really thought much about or worried about politics. It was very much a centrist world, as the country was in the latter stages of the post-war boom. And politics wasn’t anywhere near the blood sport it has turned into. In fact, the country appeared to be quite united over the prospect of putting a man on the moon.

This was an America where everybody was friendly and where archetypes like Archie Bunker had yet to be realized. It was a good life, where most people aspired to be part of the middle class and just enjoy life.

It all spilled over into Canada In places like Crystal Beach. People came and went back and forth across the border and nobody thought twice about it. People were mostly good and kind and treated others with genuine respect.

I think about that America a lot these days. Mostly wondering what happened to it. It’s not like things on the surface changed all that much, but slowly, in one event after the other starting, I believe with the Vietnam War, the country began to split and become factionalized.

Over the next 5 decades that rupture between the left and the right grew more and more pronounced, until four years ago, with the election of a paper mache fascista, what started as a little sliver of factionalization had become an almost unbridgeable canyon.

Funny how you don’t notice a lot of this stuff for what it really is until it fully manifests itself.

Today the United States is more divided than at any time since the Civil War, some 160 years ago. I look at this with a deep measure of sadness, mainly because I knew the America that really was the Bright Shining City on The Hill.

My hope is that, with the changing of their government in 2021, and with the installation of a much more humanistic administration, that this divide can be bridged somehow, and that some of the wounds these people have inflicted on each other will heal somewhat.

But I have no illusions about this. It took a long time to get to this situation, and it will take a long time for the fences to mend. But at least, with this election, there’s a chance for the American people to get a good start on the journey back to being the kind of country where differences of opinion can be settled without creating hate or division.

Jim Murray
Jim Murrayhttps://www.bebee.com/@jim-murray
I have been a writer since the age of 14. I started writing short stories and poetry. From there I graduated to writing lyrics for various bands and composers and feature-length screenplays, two of which have been produced. Early on in my writing career, I discovered advertising. While the other media have drifted in and out, communications writing and art direction have been the constant through a 20-year career senior positions in Canadian and multi-national agencies and a second career, which began in 1989, (Onwords & Upwords Inc), as a strategic and creative resource to direct clients, design companies, marketing consultants and boutique agencies. Early in 2020, I closed Onwords & Upwords and opened MurMarketing which is a freelance strategic development/copywriting/art direction service for businesses working to make a positive difference in the world. I currently write long format blogs in 4 different streams, encompassing, entertainment, marketing, and communications, life in general, and the renewable energy and recycling industries. These are currently published on beBee.com. I have, over the years, created more than 1500 blog posts. I live with my wife Heather in the beautiful Niagara Region of southern Ontario, after migrating from Toronto, where I spent most of my adult life. I am currently recovering from spinal surgery and learning to walk again.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for your comment, Jeff. I agree with your sentiments. And while I didn’t get involved with most of the people I knew all t hat deeply, I felt that there were just a lot of good people there that weren’t all that different from us Canuks. You are spot on about ignorance, in the sense of no internet to broadcast opposing points of view 24/7. Sometimes I regret that too.

  2. Jim — Thanks for this piece. I grew up in the 60s, too, just outside of Chicago. I think there is something to the notion that we have lost a kind of innocence, but it may have been an innocence born out of ignorance. We have ALWAYS been a nation divided by our politics and social mores – we just didn’t always realize it because the communication / information sharing wasn’t there. To your point, Vietnam was a defining moment – you were for or against our involvement – but what helped illuminate that was TV. Walter Cronkite brought the war into our home every night.

    So much of what we’re experiencing today played out earlier in the 60s. Racial injustice. Protests. Social changes. The Cold War with Russia. It’s a bit like deja vu all over again. The space program, as you point out, gave many of us something to feel good about – to take our minds off the domestic issues – but a large percent of the population thought it was a huge waste of money relative to investing instead in domestic programs. Kennedy almost pulled the plug on it when it appeared that we were probably going to beat the Russians. Johnson intervened and should really be credited with the success.

    Politically, the election of 1960 shows just how divided we were. Kennedy won by some 112,000 votes! I remember him to be reviled because he was a Catholic. Hated because of his religion….

    Newt Gingrich, though, ushered in the type of take-no-prisoners / no compromise type of politics we know of today. Sadly, I have few illusions about any coming together as a nation. Social media is exacerbating our differences. It’s now so easy to spread mis- and dis-information.

    I’m rambling…. I wish there were ‘the good ol’ days” but I think they may have been more in our imagination than in truth. America has always been this fragile experiment. It’s vibrations have always been there; it’s now just easier to feel them.

    Appreciated your piece.

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