Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A History Lesson

I’ve had reason to hear, over the past few days, news broadcasts from June of 1974. You know, the six minutes at the top of the hour that radio stations devote to the news. If I could figure out how to post it, I would. (Suggestions?)

Israel was having peace talks with Syria, and had pulled its army away from spitting-distance of Damascus. A body was pulled out of a burned SLA hideout in Los Angeles – not, happily, that of Patty Hearst. Lots of union problems and strikes. Oil skyrocketed to an outrageous $15 a barrel – we laugh now, but it hurt big time – caused a recession. Governors were calling for Nixon’s resignation. Martin Luther King’s mother was murdered in her church – playing the organ, gunned down by a crazy black man – God had told him to get King’s wife, but she wasn’t available. It does go on.

I was in my teens in those days, and I remember some of this. The house fire that didn’t get Patty. I remember that. Nixon, of course. But here’s what I’d forgotten – in the specific: What a wretched, horrible time that was. What an awful decade. The worst decade. The ugliest clothes and music and hair, but that doesn’t mean much. It was the most cynical time ever. It was the worst time in which to come of age. I only got over it a decade later, when I was living in another country and had the distance and perspective to re-evaluate America.

When I heard these old broadcasts, I was very surprised. Truly. It was almost overwhelming, the unrelenting intensity of it all. Lots of seriously bad news, over a few weeks in June of 1974. But I was struck by the fact that it was news. Get what I mean? The news reports were full of honest, hard news. Some sports at the end, but no fluff at all. They didn’t know, you see, what a stupid decade it was. They were just honestly reporting important things in the world. Clear, honest, straight news. If we match our worst problems with theirs, it may break even. Islamism for Communism. Iraq/Iran for Vietnam/Israel-Syria. But these are better times. But they had news.


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