November 16th, 2021

distress signal

The long view

Sixty-two years ago (late fall, 1959) when I was a young boy, I remember being in a store of some kind with my mother where I saw a large advertising poster. It showed a woman shopping, and there were dollar bills stacked up in a corner and other details I don't remember now. But its slogan was something to the effect that "the Fabulous Fifties" were about to turn into "the Soaring Sixties," and all this promised a consumer utopia of some sort.

"The Fabulous Fifties" was how people looked at our society as the decade was ending. We were looking forward to an even more fabulous decade to come, we thought. Were the Sixties "soaring?" Well, yes. There was the space race and the expansion of suburbia and the defeat of polio and the discovery of fluoride dentifrice, and lots of other cool things. The Jetsons were set in 2062, but they represent how Americans in 1962 imagined the future. As the 1960s were just beginning, America was in a confident mood.

This is not what we think of when we talk about "the Sixties." But then, "the Sixties" (as we remember them) came late in that decade, and much of "the Sixties" actually happened in the Seventies. Protests over the Vietnam War began in earnest in 1968, along with assassinations and riots. Woodstock was in 1969. Drugs became more common, and Hippiedom got commercialized. Things staggered on through to Watergate and the evacuation of Saigon. After that, politics got realigned. Stagflation, gas shortages, ecology, the fall of the Shah -- all these came after.

But what about the civil rights movement? Ah, most of that actually happened before "the Sixties." Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down in 1954. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was in 1955-6. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech was in 1963. The March from Selma to Montgomery was 1965. King's influence was actually waning a bit at the time of his death as other, more impatient voices within the Black community began to come to prominence and criticize his non-violent approach.

The turmoil over civil rights shines an interesting light on "the Fabulous Fifties," not to mention "the Soaring Sixties." Yes, these were genuine achievements of those times, and should be remembered as part of those times; however, they also demonstrate that the Fifties weren't quite as fabulous for everybody in the same way. There were a lot of fears and vicious hatreds in the news, too. Not only in our domestic relations, but in international relations as well: I remember "duck and cover" and Civil Defense shelters and the whole worry over war with the Soviet Union. These, too, were part of the early years of my life.

All this is to take a long look at where we are today. In one way, the long view enables me to brush off a lot of the hype that goes along with people who see only the daily outrages and alarums. But in another way, I have to say that I have not seen a time so ugly and flirting with catastrophe since my youth. Even the terrorists and assassins and whatnot of "the Sixties" did not shake the foundations of our society the way they are being shaken today. I think that Joe Biden and the Democrats of today are as incompetent and dangerous as James Buchanan and the Democrats of the 1850s and -60s. Not that I fear an actual civil war, mind you, but the great achievements of the middle years of my life all seem endangered to me now.

We are consumed by tribal rage, we are being forced to mouth an ugly ideology taking the forms of wokeness, intersectionality, CRT -- call it what you will, we are being bullied and lied to by our government, we have taken on debt greater than that we assumed to fight WW II (and have pissed the money away on little of lasting value), "Science" is being invoked as a theocratic orthodoxy to justify metaphysical quackery about who and what is male or female, we are facing an aggressive and dangerous China, and perhaps soon a resurgent international Islamic terrorism. All throughout my childhood and youth, the one great constant was that America was the pre-eminent nation in the world, economically, militarily, technologically, and philosophically. All that is in peril.

How will "the Twenty-twenties" be remembered? I wonder, and I worry.

Crunch Salad

Okay, so you've got the big entree under control. You think. There are a lot of other dishes for the family holiday gathering that are traditional. Some are a lot of trouble, or at least you've never made them. That makes the stress go up. On the other hand, salad is always a thing. So, here's a no-brainer salad from your humble hash-slinger that you can throw together in no time. I call it . . .

Crunch Salad

I invented this one for a Cub Scout event I was cooking for. Getting veggies in these young'uns can be a challenge. Plus, I was serving meatloaf and mac and cheese -- two very soft foods. I wanted something on the side with some chew to it. My response was to make a "crunch" salad. Herewith are the ingredients for a single family-sized dish. Multiply as necessary for the hordes you might have to feed.

1 broccoli crown (use the stem for something else)
1/2 head cauliflower
1/4 head red cabbage
1 small pkg dried cranberries
1 pkg tortilla strips
Ranch dressing in quant. suff. (takes more than you think)

Chop all the veggies to nibble size. Put in bowl with cranberries and tortilla strips. Toss with Ranch dressing until all pieces are covered.

I've served this to various groups, young and old. I keep getting rave reviews on it. You can make it up the day before. It's also bright and festive looking, the perfect thing on a plate to contrast with meat and potatoes, which are brown and beige.

If you're making it up ahead of time and don't want to mess up a bowl, put all the ingredients in a gallon or bigger ziploc bag, seal the bag and squeeze/toss between your hands to mix. Then store it in the fridge.