Over the past week, vendors have set up shop outside the Mayer Campus Center and sold antiques on at least two occasions. From Royal typewriters of the Kennedy era to torn-but-true leather jackets that could have been right out of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” (1987) music video, there was a definite romanticization of antiquity on display.
It has become trendy to revive extinct technologies, events and fashion statements. Finding such occurrences takes minimal effort; in 2017 we deck our Instagram feeds with high quality snaps of Polaroid framed shots, we attend sock hops on Friday nights and we even print this paper, although it is entirely available online, because of the soothing vibe of a time we were told was less complicated.
The goal of this column is not to serve as a historical record. However, in modern history, a ‘golden age’ has been hard to come by. Every age that we dub golden has, in fact, been merely gilded. The same machine used to transcribe edgy poetry today could have been used to send government messages during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. A slight tear in a leather jacket used to give off the ‘punk’ aesthetic could have just as easily been from a Crips and Bloods fight. The gripes maintained about the century we live in, ranging from an imminent ‘threat’ of nuclear war to uneasy tensions on the streets of our cities, are ones that transcend our own time.
A century separates the point at which I will graduate from this institution and the year 1921. A remarkable amount of change has and continues to take place in that span of time. While I cannot speak to the mysteries of a future four years away, I do know that tragedies and points of contention existed 96 years ago. From the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to the seemingly endless battle over Prohibition, there were undeniable moments of sorrow, anger and fear, mixed into the Roaring Twenties. The same emotions have continued to exist in our psyche, through the Depression, another world war, a missile crisis, a race to the moon, a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and at least one upsetting election victory.
Philosophically and psychologically, it is easy to connect the simpler explanation of an event to our understanding of a time we did not witness. Occam’s razor suggests that we shave off the complex assumptions we would need for a comprehensive vision of the past, and the sheer existence of truckloads of positive propaganda in the realm of our popular culture makes this particular task almost spontaneous.
As we progress as a society and as a species, we unlock more mysteries of science, we produce more works of art and literature, we attempt to assuage the mistakes of generations past. Our generation is far from perfect, but through the simple act of living, we are scripting a history that the sons and daughters of the future will surely romanticize in due time.