We Cannot Go Back to the Future

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When my sons entered their teen years, we had “the talk.” No, not that one. Well, we did have that talk, too. But the talk I refer to now is the one about expensive products generally, and about cars in particular. This was my mantra-like advice to them: “Repairs are cheaper than replacement, and maintenance is cheaper than repairs.” 

Fiscal Prudence Pays

My advice to them continued along these lines: “If you properly maintain a car—and pay for the occasional necessary repairs—you can expect it to get you where you need to go for at least 200,000 miles. And that means that if you drive the average number of miles Americans drive per year—13,500—you can expect to get nearly 15 years out of your car. Then, if your auto loan was for six years, that means you will have nearly nine years of payment-free driving. If you are fiscally responsible and you save the $300 monthly car payments over eight of those years, you will amass nearly $29,000—and that does not include any interest you would accrue. You could then pay cash for a very nice replacement vehicle.

“However, along the way to amassing that small fortune, there might be times when the car has problems, some frustrating enough to make you want to demolish it and start over, regardless of the cost. Resist that temptation. You do not want to place yourself in the position of never-ending car payments.”

Political Prudence Also Pays

My advice to America during the 2016 presidential campaigns—and still today—is along those same lines. Our Founding Fathers gave us a remarkably durable foundation. If we maintain it properly and make the occasional necessary repairs, that foundation should last many centuries. 

But during the Obama presidencies many conservatives—particularly white conservatives—saw the changes being made by the “hope and change” administration as too radical. In their view, the changes went too far; we had moved beyond maintenance—or even repair. It was time, they then believed—and most still do—to demolish the Obamamobile and build a new (old) car. 

A Choice to Step Back

So, 46 percent of voting Americans cast their ballot for The Great Demolisher. They believed America was no longer running properly and it was time not for repairs but for radical replacement. “This 2016 Toyota Prius is too different. Let’s rebuild a ‘57 Chevy Belair.” I understand that thinking; a ’57 Belair looks way better than a Prius. But rebuilding a half-century old car that lacks emission controls, safety restraints, and that gets just 13 miles per gallon might not be the best way to move the nation forward. 

Car buffs now look back at the ’57 Chevy with loving nostalgia as perhaps the greatest car America ever made. But let’s remember in all honesty, that in 1957 Ford was outselling Chevy. The past is not always as we now remember it. And, by the way, why were Fords outselling Chevys in that American Graffiti era? Because Chevrolet dared to introduce a new technology: tubeless tires, a concept most drivers were then unwilling to accept but that is now taken for granted. Change is difficult for many to accept—even when it’s beneficial.

But that’s where we are under the Demolisher-in-Chief. We’re tearing down entire institutions and annihilating decades-long societal norms in order to metaphorically rebuild that classic Chevy so many upheld as the quintessential icon of America’s industrial and design greatness.

President Trump and his loyal followers want to return to the nostalgic era of the ’57 Belair, to an era before the Civil Rights Act, to a time when Ku Klux Klan members forced black truck driver Willie Edwards to jump off a bridge to his death in the Alabama River. They fondly reminisce over the good old days. But in those good old days, Governor Orville Faubus of Arkansas called out the National Guard to prevent the “Little Rock Nine” African American students from enrolling in Little Rock Central High School. 

What was so bad about 1957? It wasn’t all bad, but…

Was America better in 1957, when a Dover, Delaware, restaurant refused service to Ghana’s visiting finance minister simply because of his skin color? 

Was America better in 1957, before the first kidney transplant or heart transplant?

Was America better in 1957, before automobile safety belts?

Was America better in 1957, before vaccines for rubella and mumps?

Was America better in 1957, before the invention of synthetic insulin for diabetes?

Returning to 1957 Will Not Make America Great Again

Like it or not, this is 2020, not 1957. And, no, the past is not always as we remember it. We’d be wiser to repair any deficiencies in our current model than to build new factories aimed at reproducing a model that went out of production 63 years ago—no matter how good anyone might think it looks.

13 comments

  1. I sometimes say about conservatives, that they yearn to return to the “good old days” that never actually existed. They have a distorted memory of the past that emphasizes what they see as positives but mostly ignores the negatives.

    Yes, I can look back to an earlier time, such as when I was growing up. And I can remember some good things that we have lost. But we cannot go back. Too much else has changed. Let’s all be realists about that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your advice to your sons was spot on! I’ve followed that all my life, which is why today my daughter drives a 2007 Saturn and I drive a 2004 Kia van! But, on to your larger point … this post is excellent! The world moves forward, in some ways for better, in other ways not so much. But, it is a fact, and as the world moves forward, we, too, must move forward. Nostalgia tends to be blind to the things the mind would like to forget, such as Jim Crow, segregated restrooms, women’s lack of rights, diseases that are now non-existent, etc. We champion the things like the Internet and cell phones that make our lives easier, but want to cherry-pick the parts of ‘moving forward’ that we want, while eschewing the rest. It doesn’t work that way. Thanks for this common-sense assessment. I shall re-blog this evening.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As much as I like a whole lot of people on the internet, if anyone were to ask me, I would refuse both the internet and cell phones. Both have much more wrong with them than there is good. Even personal computers are a question mark! (No. ! is an exclamation mark. ? is a question mark!)

      Anyways, while the world is safer with a lot of the advancements I have seen in my lifetime, I wish we could go back and uninvent a lot of them.Smart weapons, calculators, social media, colour and HD TVs do little to actually improve life in any necessary way. So much is for convenience, and to that I say, Who needs it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sigh … yes, there are many that I’d like to uninvent as well. Others, I think are good but are too often used for evil by hackers and such. But, I have to ask one thing … why on earth would you want to uninvent calculators??? Now, I think they should not be used by children in school who need to learn basic math skills, but for those of us who already know how, the calculator can save hours!

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      2. They can save hours of work, true, but at least we know how to do the arithmetic. The other day I gave a twoney ($2 coin) and a dime for something that cost a $1.10 to a young grocery clerk. She looked at the coins, gave me back the dime, punched the twoney into the till and after seeing how much change she was supposed to give me, counted out 3 quarters, a dime, and a nickle. I added my dime to her coins and said, may I please have a looney ($1 coin) to use to get a shopping cart (They take loonies as collareral to make sure you don’t steal the cart!) She looked at me and said, “We’re not allowed to give out looneys for carts, or we’ll run out of them.” At which point I sid, getting a bit frustrated, “That’s why I gave you $2.10 for a $1.10 purchase, so you would give me a looney in change so I could get a cart.” Her mouth dropped open, and she just stared at me.
        In all it took over 15 minutes before I had her so confused she had to call her manager (I skipped a bunch of the story, it would take two hours to type the whole thing) and explain the fact the line was being held up because I wanted a loonie for a shopping cart, and the rules said she could not give me one. She had the manager so confused trying to explain what I had done, he reached into his pocket, took out a loonie, and gave it to me.
        I hope he didn’t fire her, but she was no longer at the till when I finished shopping.
        This is why I would uninvent calculators. They stop people from learning how to use their own skills.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. OH MY!!!! What a fiasco! I had something similar happen a few years ago when the automatic registers were down and the cashier had to actually figure out my change from a $100 bill. It ended with her having to call a manager who couldn’t figure it in his head, and had to use a calculator. Not near as much chaos as in your story, though, which actually gave me quite a chuckle! But, rather than “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, let’s keep the calculators, but make them forbidden to use in schools. I’m getting ready to tackle some tax returns and I’d really like to keep my calculator! 😉

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      4. Oh true … I could do it all with pencil & paper, but … it would take me four times as long, and most of these I charge almost nothing, so … I like my calculator! 😉

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  3. Yes, Jill, my 2004 Suzuki Aerio still runs great and I see no reason to replace it. Both our cars are paid off, and my wife and I have just four more house payments. I’m not ashamed to be frugal. But, on to the bigger point, yes, time tends to color–or discolor–our memories. I’m grateful for our many technological and cultural advances. I wouldn’t mind being younger, but I have no desire to return to the past.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m not a car buff, but I do understand the car analogy as Holden has just closed forever, here in Australia. A lot of people crying in their beers.

    I’ve never owned a Holden, nor wanted to, but that’s almost heresy here, so…ssshhh! Btw, I do love my current car. It’s a Toyota Corolla, 1988 model and I’ve owned it since it was five years old. It ain’t purty no more, but it keeps on going with minimal repairs. My freezer is about the same vintage. We have to unlearn the conditioning imposed on us by planned obsolescence.

    And finally, I think you have the psychology of the current era spot on. I hope this is not the only legacy us Boomers leave to history.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Grumpy, it is a good analogy. This administration is protecting industries that are mature or declining, while others push ahead. Fortunately, some people, companies, states and cities are moving forward leaving Trump on a stalling train. The fossil fuel industries registered a decline in prevalence in 2019. Keith

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