1/20/21 – Inauguration Day, Reflections on America

Congratulations to Joe and Kamala! What a great day it’s been. A friend in D.C. shared this invitation:

Joe Biden's inauguration invitation. Note in the lower right hand corner the invitation was printed on recycled paper
Note in the lower right hand corner the invitation was printed on recycled paper

I would have loved to have gone, but with the rest of the country I watched proudly on television. Today, besides it being my last day riding in Hawaii, I’ve been reflecting.

America Then and Now 

Ever since I first set foot out of Kingsport, Tennessee, I’ve had a bit of wanderlust. Half a century ago I set about to travel to all 50 states. I made it to 48, missing not Alaska and Hawaii but Rhode Island and Maine. I remember then there was a lot of litter in America. There were old rusty cars lining the roadsides. Life was kind of boring. Alfred Hitchcock had dozens of the same black suits and it seemed like everyone who wore a suit dressed the same tiresome way. Elvis and the Beatles came along and perked things up a bit, but life was still rather mundane. Imagine no internet, no cell phone, no camera always at your fingertips. It would be unbearable today!

I remember black people were not treated well back then. Once while traveling I stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant to use the restroom. He said it was closed but if I really had to go, I could use the colored restroom. What I saw there was filth unimaginable. I headed for the bushes. I saw a black man on a horse-drawn wagon on the streets of Atlanta. Now Atlanta is one of the great cities in America and a great many black people thrive. We picked up the litter, and cleared away the old rusty cars thanks to the “Make America Beautiful” movement of the 60’s.

We didn’t lock our doors back then, at least not in Kingsport. You could leave your bike unattended. Now, you have to lock up your bike every time you leave it or there’s a good chance it won’t be there when you come back. In Japan, I’m told, you could leave your bike unattended and it would be there when you came back a week later.

There were no drugs back then. Maybe a few knew of reefer, but very few. Drugs weren’t prolific like they are now. Drugs cause much of the crime and a great many other problems. Those seeking to solve their problems with drugs end up with even worse problems. A great many of the homeless owe their demise to drugs. You don’t see homeless in China and Japan. There’s not a drug problem there.

When I was born, Truman was President. Eisenhower followed and then Kennedy. In the first grade I wore an “I like Ike” button, not even knowing who that was. Another kid told me, “Oh, you’re for whoever your parents are for.” My dad, a union electrician and a lifelong Democrat, made me take off the button when I got home from school. Later I read all about Eisenhower. I’d wear that button if he were running today. These were times when we trusted what our leaders told us. After Johnson and Nixon, not so much. We came to expect being lied to. One Trump voter admitted, “We all knew what kind of man he was when we voted for him.” Government became less noble. Sorry Ike, the military-industrial complex seems to have won.

There was no environmental movement until the 1960s. We hardly noticed we were polluting the rivers and the sky. Once we noticed we sought to clean things up but there would always be friction between those who love nature and those who love money.

America is better in many ways now than then. It’s cleaner and more prosperous. It’s way better for black people but not nearly as good as it should be. I watched on the History Channel the inauguration in 1969. Every person in the parade of dignitaries was white and male – every Senator, every Supreme Court Justice. America will continue to get better. We all know that. We all believe in the ideals of our founders and the Constitution. The machine of America grinds to the good. I feel hopeful about our new President. We all know what kind of man he is.

1/20/21 – Inauguration Day, Reflections on America

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