Things Were Better When You Were a Kid, Whenever That Was.

According to a poll released today by The Washington Post, people who are angry about health care are also angry about pretty much everything:

The health-care debate has generated intense levels of frustration among the bill's opponents, and those who say they are outright angry almost universally believe that the country is going in the wrong direction -- some say toward an America they no longer recognize. ...

In follow-up interviews, many went beyond health care as they spoke of their deep misgivings about the country's leadership and the changes taking place around them.

"I grew up in the '50s," said Hugh Pearson, 63, a retired builder from Bakersfield, Calif. "That was a wonderful time. Nobody was getting rich, nobody was doing everything big. But it was 'Ozzie and Harriet' days, 'Leave It to Beaver'-type stuff. Now we have all this MTV, expose-yourself stuff, and we have no morality left, not even by the legislators."

Indeed, because back in the 1950s, legislators never cheated on their wives, or made corrupt deals, or failed to do what was in the best interest of the country as any particular constituent might see it. If only we could return to those times.

The problem Pearson and people like him seem to have isn't just that the TV shows of his youth were different than the TV shows of today. It's that the country is changing -- most important, it's changing demographically, meaning it's less white than it was, among other things. Also, in the 1950s, Hugh was young, and he was the future. When old people shook their fist at the young people listening to their '45s and dancing at their sock hops, Hugh might have said, "Too bad, Gramps! It's our world now!" But now he's the one telling the young punks to get off his lawn, and change is a lot more unsettling.

I don't mean to pick on this one randomly selected citizen. But this is something we hear all the time: that back in my day, things were simpler and better, and the America I remember from my youth is being destroyed. The best answer I've seen to this repeated complaint came from The Daily Show's John Oliver. In the clip below, he makes what ought to have been an obvious point: "So just when was the simpler, better time that all these great Americans want us to return to? ... They were children! ... It was a better, simpler time because they were all 6 years old! For children, the world is always a happy, uncomplicated place!"

I suppose that one day, today's youth will find themselves saying, "When I was a kid, we had Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Not like the garbage kids watch today..."

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-- Paul Waldman

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