The Myth of the Golden Years – The Atlantic

Whether economic times are good or bad, the lament for the old days of factories and mills never changes.

By Tom Nichols, August 4, 2021

Getty; The Atlantic

“You’ll want to read this,” my wife said, handing me the Sunday Boston Globe.

The cover story that week in late September 2020 was about a 62-year-old woman who had colon cancer that had metastasized. She died in a local hospital; her husband was also in poor health and could not take care of her at home. After she died, he moved into an area facility.

Reading of someone so close to my own age succumbing to a highly preventable disease was a bit unsettling. The dateline, however, was the reason my wife had given me the paper.

The story was from my hometown in Massachusetts, and the facility where the husband now lived was down the street from my childhood home. When I was a boy, we joked, far too easily, about “putting” people there when they got old. In later years, the joking ended when my father had to stay there briefly as his health began to fail. My brother then passed through its doors on his way to the final stop in a VA hospital.

The couple in the story had struggled for survival in the neighborhood where I grew up, and one of them, as the Globe put it, had experienced “the kind of death all too typical for people who work hard jobs for modest pay,” dying “too young … and too hard.”

Central to these criticisms is a nostalgia for an idealized past that always makes the present seem terrible. Some of this is manipulation by political charlatans. But sincere concerns come from some political and economic elites, especially those who are products of a class transition and advancement through education and relocation. They are concerned about the anger of the “forgotten places” where they grew up.

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Source: The Myth of the Golden Years – The Atlantic