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By LINDA M. KELLEY
Rantoul Press columnist
It’s mid-morning on a sunny Saturday when instead of getting ready to pursue weekend chores, I find myself sitting on the couch in the living room, next to my husband with our coffees, watching a movie that we enjoy.
It’s one of those movies that the satellite network plays regularly that we’ve seen a number of times, and yet each time, “Midnight in Paris” still manages to enthrall us.
During a commercial break, I profess that I really need to get busy, and yet an hour later I’m still sitting there, letting my mind drift into the premise of a golden age and what that truly defines.
For those not familiar with the Woody Allen film, it’s a romantic comedy about a nostalgic writer who, while on a trip to Paris with his fiancé’s family, stumbles across a mysterious midnight time passage that takes him back to the 1920s, an era he idolizes. While there he meets Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, among others.
He also becomes entranced by a muse named Adriana, who along with the time travel brings him confrontation over the shortcomings of his relationship with his materialistic fiancée and their divergent goals. Over a series of events, including further time travel to the late 1800s, he meets with the realization that humans have a natural tendency to glorify an earlier time of history as the golden age.
Were the good ol’ days really so good?
Over the course of changing times in today’s world where things seem to be spinning rapidly out of control, it’s a common thought process that the times before us were better. However, I tend to hold the biblical principal that there truly is nothing new under the sun.
The same old human nature bent on wrong doing has been around since the beginning of time, just perhaps not in such a visible, sensationalized manner in which we’re accustomed to viewing today thanks to instantaneous, extended media.
In case anyone be mistaken, there have always been horrors in the world; have we forgotten the Holocaust, the 20 million who perished under Joseph Stalin, Jack the Ripper the serial killer who savagely terrorized London in 1888, John Wayne, Gacy who committed his murders between 1972 and 1978, or the horrendous persecution of Christians during the Middle Ages in which roughly 3 million brutally perished during The Crusades? Were these really the good old days?
My parents who grew up in the first half of the 1900s also attest that although there weren’t the tools of notification that we have now, their parents told them of people in their neighborhoods who weren’t quite right and who should strictly be avoided. Molestations and other forms of physical abuse went on then just as it does now, except it wasn’t so readily reported.
In my genealogical, anthropological research that led me frequently through the Northwestern University’s online Homicide in Chicago database that covers the years between 1870 and 1930, it was truly confirmed that the glorification of a previous time in history is incorrect since one quick scan of this database of 11,000 homicides, proves otherwise.
As I was leaving work the other evening, I stood at the edge of the pedestrian crosswalk that is boldly marked for drivers to stop, and as is usual, at least three motorists would have obviously run me right into the pavement, had I not stopped mid step and waited for them to pass, even as I stood clearly within their sight. We even made eye contact.
When the world seemingly spins out of control in the never-ending news reel of crime, we may shake our heads in anger and lament the loss of the good old days, and yet I’m telling you that the very characteristic that is present in those who commit crimes, is no different than the one that lies within a motorist who can’t take the time to stop, who would run right over a mom crossing the street.
Selfishness at the core
This acknowledgement may involve deep thought for a moment, but the characteristic that I write about is selfishness.
It’s the same attitude that has been present in humans since the beginning of time. It’s the characteristic that falls under that biblical reference to “nothing new under the sun”; the thought that one’s life, one’s time, is more important than another person, and all of those self-centered mannerisms that have no regard for others is connected to the root of many evils.
By the grace of God, most of us never succumb to the point where that selfish characteristic takes over our whole being. Some of us are even able to look beyond the atrocities that have been present since the beginning of the world to realize that the golden age is right now, here in the present, even if it is tarnished.
Linda Kelley of Rantoul writes a monthly column for the Rantoul Press on life experiences and family and social issues. She also writes a blog, which can be accessed at http://forever-austine-allen.blogspot.com/