One of the reasons why the current situation in the US makes me so unhappy is that I am a student of history and a collector of history books to some degree and when I compare the boundless optimism of historians of a century and a quarter ago to the media crowd of today it makes me shake my head.
But when I get down like that I do what Stacy McCain does here:
We must live in reality, rather than in our political fantasies of an ideal condition of “Equality” that, so far as I know, has never existed anywhere at any time in all of human history. This utopian fantasy is harmful in that it breeds irrational discontentment, no matter how objectively splendid our actual circumstances may be. Some of the most bitter people in America are rich liberals whose affluent lifestyles would have been unimaginable to their grandparents or more remote ancestors. My own grandfather plowed the red clay hills of east Alabama behind a mule team. He had no indoor plumbing or electricity or central heat. Rather than make myself miserable by comparing my situation to that of Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, I prefer to make myself happy by thinking how much easier my life is than that of my grandfather. Right now, I’m drinking a fruit smoothie and eating a meal I warmed up in the microwave, while preparing to hit the “publish” button and communicate with a readership of thousands. What have I got to complain about, if I pause to compare my situation to my grandfather’s life in rural Alabama?
My father was born in 1921 and would have been 100 years old this Halloween, his father was born in the late 1800’s, My mother was born in 1924 and her mother, the youngest of my four grandparents was born in 1896. All were born before the airplane, before the radio in the shadow of the Volcano Mt. Etna.
They came to a country where they were considered of a different race, did not speak the language and worked hard all their lives. My parents born here did the same, people simply don’t understand how lucky they are to have what they have particularly when it was built on the hard work of folks like this who took risks.
A great example of this blindness came up a few months ago. My son was experimenting with a sauce and decided to call my older sister to get some tips on how our grandparents made the meat. Was it in a sauce raw or did they cook it in the sauce etc. She pointed out that the reason why they cooked things in the sauce wasn’t flavor, but that it was a lot of work to clean pans, to cook etc, particular in an era before washing machines and the harnessing of electricity became the norm. . A lot of the styles we romantic about the past was all about necessity
I will likely never have to work as hard as my father who left school in at 11 in the sixth grade to work, who fought a world war in the pacific and then came home to build a family. I will likely never have to pick dandelions to have something to eat as my mother did occasionally as a kid (she never lost a taste for them) Nor will I have to work remotely as hard as my grandparents did to get by and that is due to both their hard work and American progress.
To know history is to be grateful for the lot you have as an American, which is why so many are willing to come here and work for money many Americans would not, because they know what they’ve got.