Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 a far cry from 1964

The Fab Four that threatened America. Wow.
As we get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show along with the British musical invasion, it's worth noting that life is a lot better for most Americans today, but dreadful for many.

Racially, we are better off. It helps having an African-American president elected not once, but twice.

The jobless rate remains high as more workers quit looking for work. An estimated 40 percent of the workforce has opted out even looking for work.

No surprise since we are enduring at least the fourth jobless recovery in the past 25 years.

Compare that with 1964, a Leap Year when the jobless rate would be at its highest that decade, at 5.2 percent, before falling to its last historic low of 3.5 percent in 1969. We will likely never see jobless numbers so low again.

Back in the Sixties, Americans made most of the products they consumed, even the toy bobble-head dolls of The Beatles. In 2014, most American flags are made in China, along with almost everything else we consume.

Yes, the government learned then, as it did during the two world wars, that foreign conflicts are good for the economy.

But, the war then was in Vietnam, which set the standard for abject failure for America.

Today, we have Afghanistan, another never-ending conflict that won't end well for the U.S., much like our invasion of Iraq. And yet, the economy cratered to Depression-era depths in spite of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unlike Vietnam, which never attacked America or was ever a threat to this country, Afghanistan did harbor the folks who hijacked our planes on 9/11 and killed nearly 3,000 innocent people. Iraq, of course, is considered the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.

In 1964, we were still fighting the Cold War with the Soviets. And, unlike today, we had the draft.

In 2014, the Soviet Union hasn't existed for more than 20 years, yet we're fighting a hot war with Islamic terrorists. Ironic that an atheistic foe gave way to a rabidly religious adversary.

And, we thought in 1964, that atheism was the greatest threat ever to this country.

We had a presidential election in 1964, unlike this year. Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, who inspired the modern conservative movement, proposed in his platform that Social Security be voluntary. This was nearly 30 years after it became the law of the land. It's safe to say that "Obamacare" will still be contested until at least 2044. By the way, Goldwater, due to his extremist rhetoric in regards to the Communist "threat," not to mention his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, suffered the worst defeat by a Republican in the past 50 years.

1964 was also an Olympic year for the Summer games in Tokyo, a country trying to rebound from its horrific crimes of World War II. Innsbruck, Austria, hosted the Winter Games.

In 2014, we have the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which, if regional terrorists succeed, could be the beginning of World War III between western Christian countries and mid-eastern Muslim nations.

As a recent PBS documentary noted, the Sixties, a decade that was the best and worst of times, really began in 1964. We had the space race on one end of the spectrum and race riots on the other. We had widespread prosperity along with a "war on poverty."

Of course, the assassination of JFK in late 1963 was the prelude to all the angst that the decade would entail.

Cassius Clay, the original trash talker in sports, became the undisputed champion of boxing in 1964. He promptly denounced his "slave name" and became Muhammad Ali. That action may seem tame by today's standards, but Ali represented a serious threat to the white status quo. There was Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Ali. Wasn't that a time.

The Beatles look innocuous, by today standards. Their mop-tops, though, upended an American culture that featured only white boys with crew-cuts. Long hair became the symbol of rebellion.

Therefore, the Fab Four were deemed a threat to the American way of life.

The Beatles' songs, though, are still the standard by which all pop music is measured in 2014.

We are far better off as a culture because of The Beatles.

Let it be.

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