The worst times?

November 22, 2010

We're pleased to
announce a new regular blogger: Martin E. Marty, emeritus professor at the
University of Chicago. Marty's name has been on the
Century masthead since 1956, currently as a
contributing editor. --Ed.

I am moved again by something dredged up from an old sermon:
the tomb-marker of Sir Robert Shirley, a baronet "whose singular praise it is
to have done the best things in the worst times, and to have hoped them in the
most calamitous."

Are these the worst and most calamitous times? My generation
survived the Depression, World War II and other wars, the Cold War, McCarthyism
and Watergate, earlier stages of the Culture Wars, 9/11 and non-found weapons
of mass destruction. Each seemed worst and most calamitous. What is different
this time is the breakdown of civility and discourse in civil society, drastic
polarization in politics and numberless events and phenomena which do not need
describing or enlarging upon here.

Agree with me or not that these are the worst times, I hope
bloggees will indulge me in my impulse to look for some people, ideas and
events which do or should elicit "singular praise." They will show up now and
then in successor posts.



No time is exactly like another but, for me, the similarities between our time and the 1890s are striking. Political discourse was vitriolic. The economy was weak and very cyclical. It was propped up several times with "bail outs" public and private. The population was very rich or very poor and the middle class was shrinking. Corporations ruled the roost. The government seemed unable to function well. There were several short wars which was then be topped off with a major one (and that is not meant to be a prediction). Churches divided along extremes. And that is what I can come up with just off the top of my head!

The worst times in the US

The worst times in the US have affected life in all levels within this contry, but we rarely think of how our actions during bad and camitous times have affected others around us.
In my life I have been witness of the suffering inflicted in others because of the culture of fear that has dominated the US for decades. Fear of not being the first, the most powerful, the wealthiest, the one with who says the last word, has led the goverment, the corporations, and the ordinary citizens to make decisions which have caused the most vulnerable to see the real "worst times" here in the US and abroad. I honor and admire those who have survived the horrors and the comsequences of the worst times in the US, but I hope that one day, this society will have the willigness to consider and to honor those who suffer the comsequeces of economic measures, political games, and military actions which in many cases are used to make people (the ones in positions of privilege and power). Maybe those are the people we need to sit with and to listen to to learn and to share with the difficult times of our era.

The Pendulum

I have lived not quite as long as you, but I was a teen during the late 60's & 70's. That free will, free loving generation were the children of the post-war veterans and their wives. Men who came back to build a nation, work long hours, and provide for their families, period. The self-focused 20-30 y/o young adults of today are a product of the young mothers of my generation who did everything by the book and made their children the center of their world. For many of us, they still are. Unable to live independently on their own because we sacrificed to give them all, many are still living in their old bedrooms or our garage apartment. Or if living away, we are still funding them financially. I don't believe in a worse or better time. Of course war, disease, famine, natural disasters are terrible. But in every event, there is a by-product of good in some form or fashion. When things get ugly, you just have to look around for the beauty. If it is not here - it is coming! If things are great, get prepared for the worst to come. Are we having fun yet! I hope so. Same is boring

Looking Forward to More!

When I was much younger (in my 20s and 30s) I promised myself that I would never bcome an old guy who seemed to be able to say nothing except "You should have been here yesterday!" Now at 70 I find myself fretting over the political and social atmosphere of the day, particularly the seemingly dramatic increase of "us and them" thinking and the resulting diatribes that come in its wake. I am tempted to break my promise to myself; however, I take some comfort in remembering that the supporters of Hamilton had sharp, even cruel, words for Jefferson and his supports had sharp, even cruel, words for Hamilton.

In any case, I look forward to additional contributions, even thinking that once-in-a-while we might get a humorous insight as in your former MEMO CC columns or a timely one as in the soon to cease CONTEXT.

Marshall Linden
Waterbury, CT

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